Galatians Day 15 – Galatians 6:11-18
This letter is deeply personal to Paul. As he brings it to a close, he excuses his transcribing companion and grabs the pen and parchment. Pouring out more of himself, Paul pens the final paragraph. “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” (Galatians 6:11)
After reinforcing his message of salvation alone through Jesus, Paul closes with these words, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
Paul physically bears on his body the marks of Jesus. In preaching the gospel he is beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned (2 Cor 11:23-25). Many Christians around the world still physically bear the marks of Jesus.
But there are unseen marks as well. Jesus tells us there is a cost to following Him. It comes in different forms at different times, but we will be in positions where we will bear painful marks of a follower. There will also be times where we will bear beautiful marks of a follower – the marks of the fruit of the spirit, the marks of bearing one another’s burdens, the marks of serving others, the marks of love.
What marks are you willing to bear for Jesus?
What matters to you so much, you are metaphorically writing it in big letters as this year comes to an end and you look forward to a new start?
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” (Galatians 6:18)
Galatians Day 14 – Galatians 6:1-10
“Nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have sinned.” (Warren Wiersbe)
Paul has spent much of his letter to the Galatians addressing how they have been deceived by these false teachers requiring adherence to laws for salvation. But he also recognizes that we are sinful people who will mess up and fall to temptation from time to time. And though it doesn’t impact our salvation, it does diminish our impact. He says that in these cases we must – with gentleness – restore them.
Our lives aren’t meant to remain in a pit of sin and its effects. We must seek restoration and alignment with the will of God.
The goal is always RESTORATION. We are called to restore – not ignore or destroy.
Think about how most interactions with sin are handled. They are often ignored, hoping it will all just go away, or terrified of the consequences of addressing it. Equally devastating, the alternative is often a brutal and public attack, behind the back gossip, and harsh judgment.
Neither ignoring or destroying leads to a restoring.
Luther says, “if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith.”
When we are dealing with sin, it must be handled with gentleness. We are all prone to wander...Paul reminds us to keep watch on ourselves. As we seek to restore, we must examine our own shortfalls. Pride is a sneaky and destructive poison.
Likewise, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. If we want to know how to love our neighbors, we can bear their burdens. We all have burdens and we weren’t meant to bear them alone.
Jesus bore our burdens of sin and its devastating impact. What better example to follow.
Life is hard and full of trials. Why add one more burden that no one can bear – the burden of saving ourselves?
What if instead of piling on more burdens of legalism and striving to save ourselves, we bore each other’s’ burdens? What if we became burden-lifters by preaching the freedom found in Christ alone?
What if we were a community that bore each other’s burdens; that made life a bit easier and lighter instead of more difficult and lonely?
Imagine a community where you didn’t have to face trials alone; where when the load was too much to bear, a brother or sister in Christ came and gently, humbly, joyfully reached over and started taking it off your shoulder and passing it down the line to be shared as a community. This is what we are called to do.
And while our own personal trials are difficult, so are bearing each other’s burdens. But it is the beautiful and holy life. Paul reminds us in this section of the letter, “..let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10).
In due season, sisters! Let us not grow weary. It is worth it.
Galatians Day 13 - Galatians 5:16-26
This portion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians shows the contrast between the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit. As believers, we have the FRUIT is the spirit within us.
Notice that fruit is singular, not plural. It isn’t like spiritual gifts. We don’t just hope for one, or maybe a few if we are lucky. We get them all. They are a package deal. Fruit—not fruits.
We have the spirit in us, so we have ALL he produces...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, AND self-control!
Paul closes this section saying, “if we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) And how does he continue this thought? With some advice we would all be wise and blessed to adhere to...”let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26)
There is power in the fruit produced by the spirit in us. May we use it for good. May it be an outward blessing to others, the opposite of conceit, provocation, and envy.
God, stir up the spirit in us. Let us benefit from the fruit available to us. Let us not give in to the flesh and crowd out the power of the spirit in us.
Galatians Day 12 – Galatians 5:1-15
Paul closes this section of the letter with three statements that seem unrelated, but are actually very related with important directives and warnings for Christ followers…
First, use your freedom as an opportunity not for the flesh, but through love to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). In other words, we have this incredible freedom gifted and paid for us by Jesus. Shall we just go about our lives doing as we wish, pleasing ourselves? No, of course not. A genuine heart understanding of the impact and magnitude of this freedom should elicit a heart response of love and service to others.
Second, the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you should love your neighbors as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). Paul is basically saying, “You want to keep the law? Here is how to do it: love one another.” Jesus also says that the law is summed up in loving God and loving each other (Matthew 22:35-40).
Finally, a warning: if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary says, “These Churches seem to have been in a state of great distraction; there were continual altercations among them. They had fallen from the grace of the Gospel; and, as Christ no longer dwelt in their hearts by faith, pride, anger, ill-will, and all unkind and uncharitable tempers, took possession of their souls, and they were in consequence alternately destroying each other. Nothing is so destructive to the peace of man, and to the peace of the soul, as religious disputes; where they prevail, religion in general has little place.”
Thousands of years have passed since Paul penned these words and the church is still battling the biting, devouring and consumption of one another.
When we are not coming from a place of love, it leaves a void that is quickly filled by pride, anger, self-righteousness, envy, ill-will, etc.
The Biblical Illustrator Commentary, recognizing that the church is composed of sinful people with a variety of backgrounds, capacities, temperaments, and interests, acknowledges there will naturally be differences. But, we need to keep them in check. Not to sacrifice truth for unity, but to ensure love is always at the core. If not, we are at risk. “These dissensions are uncharitable, when persons bite and devour one another. The spring of all this poison is in the heart; for ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,’ and the hand acts. There is a defect of real and fervent love, and an excess of selfishness within; self-opinion, self-will, and self-interest: and this arrogance breeds insolence, and all the “biting and devouring” mentioned in this place.”
Earlier in the passage, warning about those leading the Galatians into untruths, Paul reminds them that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). Yes, untruths impacting salvation and freedom in Christ need to be addressed head on, but so does the biting, devouring, and consuming of one another. Both are like a little leaven that spread exponentially. Both are heart issues, fueled by pride.
C.S. Lewis says of pride, “…the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil: pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… it is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…make no mistake about it: pride is the great sin. It is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool”
How do we combat this powerful and destructive force? This is where Paul’s first two statements come in: We recognize the work of Christ and in turn use our freedom to love and serve others…recognizing their freedom in Christ as well. And we love others well. Everything we do, say, think should be rooted in love and gratitude. We can’t let the absence of love leave a gap to be filled by pride and all that accompanies it.
Every moment we spend fighting and devouring our own, we miss opportunities to share Christ with others.
God, help us love well. Teach us how to love like You love. Let love take up so much space in our lives that pride has no place to settle in. Let us rest in the grace and freedom you have gifted us with, even when it goes against everything the world is telling us.
Galatians Day 11 – Galatians 4:21-31
The legalists Paul is warning the Galatians about gave the appearance of greater spirituality and adherence to Scriptures and the Law…so Paul pulls out the Bible study card again. This time turning to Genesis 16 -21 and the story of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.
These false teachers walked among the Galatians with an air of superiority as descendants of Abraham. But, Paul reminds them that Abraham had two sons, under very different circumstances.
Paul makes a connection between Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, born through Sarah’s servant, and Abraham’s second son, Isaac, the promised heir birthed by Sarah. One son by a slave woman, the other by a free woman (Galatians 4:22).
Sarah, unable to have children, gave her servant Hagar over to Abraham as a surrogate so they could have a child. But this wasn’t in line with God’s plan or promise. Lack of belief and faith led Sarah to go outside of God’s plan to accomplish the promised outcome. Rather than waiting on God’s timing, she went her own way and Ishmael is born of Hagar.
Fast forward 14 years. In keeping with a promise, and through the work of God alone, Isaac is born of Abraham (now 100 years old) and Sarah. The promise is kept and the line of the Savior continues, but it wasn’t based on the work of man, it was based on the miraculous work of God. Likewise, the true and only path to salvation is not based on our work in following the Law, but instead on the work of God, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
Paul continues with another connection to Abraham and Sarah’s story. Once Isaac was born, the household tension reached a boiling point. While Hagar and Ishmael remained in the family home for all these years, with the arrival of Isaac this was no longer an option. Hagar and Ishmael were cast out. Another symbolic representation of Paul’s argument that once the freedom paid for by Jesus was born, the Law and the freedom in Jesus as a requirement for salvation could not co-exist. The Law is cast off as a requirement to make us right with God.
In taking matters into her own hands and through her servant, yes, Sarah may have brought about a son for Abraham, but it was a disaster. It led to a dysfunctional household and the start of an ongoing (even today) battle between the descendants of Ishmael (the line of Muslims/Islam) and the descendants of Isaac (the line of the Jewish people and ultimately Christianity).
Paul closes this part of the letter saying, “So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31).
When we try to do anything in our own power that God wants to accomplish through us, it will be a disaster. While we don’t always understand the details or how God will work His will, it is always the better way. Trying to save ourselves by keeping rules and regulations will only end in disaster.
As much as we try to build towers of achievement, stand on our works tiptoes, and stretch up to heaven on our own, it will never satisfy or save like humbly allowing heaven to come down to us.
We are children of God; of the freedom found in Jesus alone.
Galatians Day 10 - Galatians 4:8-20
Obedience minus relationship is just legalism. The more we impose Christian regulations on others as a requirement for salvation, the more we preach a false gospel and turn people away from the only One who can create a change in them.
When we preach a message of obedience before relationship, we are turning God-ordained ways of living into human precepts and teachings. This is what Paul is calling out.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches a way of living that becomes more of an internal heart issue than an external law issue. Things like, you think murder is bad, you are liable to judgement if you are angry with your brother. And, you think adultery is wrong, you are guilty of adultery if you look at another with lustful intent. (Matthew 5:21-28).
Rules alone – the flesh alone – can never solve a heart issue. In fact, that is what got us into this mess to begin… Adam & Eve couldn’t obey the ONE law they were given…and sin entered the world.
The false teachers with their religious requirements have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value when it comes to making us right with God. They may carry an air of authority with smooth talk, charm, persuasive personalities, the appearance of devout spirituality and gifted speech, but when they add something to the work of Jesus for salvation they preach a lie that mocks the sacrifice.
It is easy to be deceived because they aren’t atheist or followers of the many cultural “gods”. They are believers, but in their insistence on observance of laws for salvation, they miss he relationship. They miss the grace. The Pharisees were religious elites, full of who full of Scriptural knowledge. They walked and talked with Jesus, but they missed Jesus. They missed their Savior.
Why then does legalism have such a strong appeal?
Grace is hard for us to accept. It goes against the grain of our culture where we work and strive to achieve success. And we like to have some standard by which we can measure success. We like the checklists to know if we are doing okay. We want parameters to help us understand if we are doing things right. But these things take an elevated role and ultimately mock the work of Jesus. And left unchecked they reek of superiority and sanctimoniousness…creating more sin, rather than washing us clean. It is easy to see the sin and legalism in others, but hard to see it in ourselves.
When we focus on the rules, we lose our focus on Jesus. We need Jesus, not a check list.
The “do/do nots” aren’t what make us right with God, better Christians, or what will invite people to follow Jesus. Rather, they are the outcome of living in closer relationship with the One who created us and who saved us. The true gospel is freedom and an open invitation. We don’t have to be cleaned up and perfect to come to Christ. We come to Christ and He does the work for us. Then with love and gratitude, we desire a deeper relationship and obedience. We want to obey because we love, not obey to hopefully be loveable and loved.
When we have Jesus, why would we want to turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, becomes slaves to them once more? (Galatians 4:9)
Galatians Day 9 – Galatians 4:1-7
It gives me much comfort to know that God is in control and His timing is perfect. He has the patience to wait for the perfect timing, and He has the power to put all things in place when the time is right.
In my simple mind, I often think things are ripe for whatever action or outcome I think should happen. I am impatient and always in a hurry for things to move on. Thankfully, God is neither.
Imagine that day in the heavenly realm when the Father looks over at the Son and says, “strap on that flesh…it’s go time.” The overwhelming joy and anticipation of the heavenly beings must have been about to explode.
The fullness of time had come. The precise and perfect moment ordained by God the instant Eve bit into that apple had arrived. Everything that had to happen was complete; everything was in place, just as God had told His people for thousands of years.
It was time. It was just the right time.
As we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, as we do on the same predictable and scheduled time each year, imagine the first Christmas. The timing wasn’t as perfect or predictable for everyone.
Imagine Mary, joyfully planning and anticipating her wedding day. Her world is rocked by the visit from an angel.
Imagine the shepherds going about their daily chores and responsibilities. An ordinary day. Every day the same, with risks of danger, mocking of others for their menial profession, and long boring nights keeping watch. This was no ordinary day as angel comes into focus.
Imagine the magi. Gazing at the stars and referring to their charts, as they had done countless times. But this night was different. “See that over there…something big is happening…this is the star of a king. We must go at once and find out where.”
The timing is perfect for a new chapter in the book of the kingdom of God. Enter the baby, Emanuel.
The fullness of God in the fullness of time, coming as a baby to make us heirs to His kingdom, His family.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:7)
Galatians Day 8 - Galatians 3:15-29
Paul continues his defense of the Gospel of faith in Jesus alone for salvation. It isn't the law or good works or genetic heritage that saves us. It is Christ alone.
The holy inheritance these Jewish Christians cling to was based on a promise to Abraham and his offspring. Paul demonstrates that even the promise to Abraham was based on faith, not the law, since it came 430 years before the law was given (Galatians 3:17). The promised offspring is Christ, and He came for everyone!
So the question lingers...if the promise so long ago was based on faith, and our salvation is based on faith in Jesus, why then the law?
Paul explains that "it was added until the offspring should come to whom the promise has been made" (Galatians 3:19)
The entire Bible sets the stage for, foreshadows, prepares for how the gap will be bridged between the creation in Genesis when the world was free of sin, and the renewal and restoration of all things, with sin and death defeated for good in Revelation. The story and plan unfolds through actual historic people and events.
The law is part of the story. One pastor describes it as a map and a mirror. A map in the sense that is shows us what holy living looks like; a mirror in that it shows us that we can't do it on our own in our own power.
Paul says the law is our temporary guardian or tutor. Something to guide us until the one who could accomplish it and be holy living for us comes. And now that Jesus has come, we are no longer under a guardian. We don't need a tutor anymore...we have the One, Jesus.
The law isn't obsolete or unimportant. The difference after Jesus is that the law was perfectly fulfilled and now only in Him is holy living possible. We don't have to get there through the law. We can lean on Jesus who did it for us. He fulfilled it and He makes payment for us when we can't. He is the promise making us heirs to the holy and eternal Kingdom of God.
And THIS is freedom. Worthy of gratitude, praise, and worship.
Galatians Day 7 - Galatians 3:10-14
Redeemed....eight letters than mean so much; that cost so much, yet given freely to us.
Redeemed...purchase of something that had been lost; ransom for freedom.
Redeemed...debt not only cancelled and forgiven, but fully paid.
What we could never do was done for us. Though it was free to us, it came at a price. A holy sacrifice was made. A holy body broken, beaten, bloody, bound to a cross...hanging on a tree. Holy blood poured out. The curse of sin soaked in, absorbed, consumed. Paid for in full.
What began with the bite of fruit from a tree, spiraling out of control, was redeemed on a tree. It. Is. Finished.
Payment in full would have been enough. But in God’s lavish love for us, He also blesses us. He doesn’t just send us on our way forgiven in full, He makes us heirs...sons and daughters of His eternal kingdom.
God, let me never take lightly what was accomplished in that tree. Thank you for paying Your holy currency, Your blood, for my salvation.
Galaians Day 6 - Galatians 3:1-9
Like the Galatians, we can be easily bewitched...lured off track, hypnotized by enticing untruths. It’s why the Christian life is so much more than that initial acknowledgement of our sin and Jesus as our savior. And don’t get me wrong, that is HUGE and secures our salvation. But what we do as the following days, months, years go on matters too.
Who we say Jesus is in our lives changes everything. This is something we have likely heard said many times, so its impact may not penetrate our souls like it should. What we believe influences how we think, how we act, how we trust, how we treat others, how we respond to suffering, how we seek peace & comfort, how we share our faith (or not), and so much more.
Do we say he is a good man, effective teacher, incredibly humble human, miracle worker, excellent student of the scriptures, solid leader, favored by God, unfairly executed, but stop somewhere around there...
... then take a little bit of that “good guy” and add to it what pleases us or makes rational sense to our way of thinking.
Paul is stern with harsh words to shake us back to the reality that it is foolishness. This way of thinking only launches us back on that roller coaster with us in the lead trying to save ourselves.
Or, do we acknowledge ALL of who Jesus is...
God wrapped in flesh & born as a baby.
Christ specifically anointed to save me.
Messiah promised & prophesied about.
Bread of life who sustains me.
Door that shows me the way to go.
Light that illuminates my path.
Good shepherd who protects me.
Way, truth, life...my guidepost, where anything contrary is lies.
True vine to abide in with roots to heaven.
Redeemer who personally paid the penalty for all my sins with His innocent, holy blood... who makes my messy clean again...who brings me back to right standing with God.
And a big one....my response to who He is...LORD of my life. My authority in all things, whom I lovingly follow and submit to. And I am so grateful for that because I am horrible at being in charge of my life.
Anything else is foolishness.
Oh, foolish Joani! Who bewitches you? How I want to boldly and full of faith respond, No one, my Lord and Savior. It is only you. I love you. Thank you.
Galatians Day 5 – Galatians 2:15-21
Paul continues to argue that if it were works of the law that saved us, no one would be justified. It is Christ alone that saves us.
To continue to rely on the law, or any part of us, to achieve our salvation for ourselves is to look up at Jesus…body limp, beaten and bloody from head to toe, pressed up against the cross, and say, “I see you up there Jesus. You did your part. Good job. Now let me just add my kosher meal, circumcision & good works and we’ll be good to go.”
Pride makes us want to believe it has something to do with us. It is hard for us to ask for help and even harder to grasp the idea of grace – that something so precious, valuable, important is given to us freely.
Grace isn’t us doing our best on our own and then hoping God will patch in the holes. Grace is God doing it all. When we add anything to what Jesus did for us, we are in essence nullifying grace.
Continuing to live under the law is putting faith in ourselves, instead of faith in God -- how well WE can follow the law; how WE can EARN God’s favor. We know how faith in ourselves works...about as good as that New Year’s resolution, that quiet time promise to God, that latest attempt to quit _____ (being so easily angry, listening to gossip at work, eating unhealthily, being impatient with my kids, drinking too much...). We disappoint ourselves more than anyone else does.
There is only one name by which we are saved. There was only one plan that would work.
On the night before Jesus was crucified, He prayed, “Abba! Father! You can do anything. Take this cup [of suffering] away from me. But let your will be done rather than mine." (Mark 14:36)
God answers prayers. If there were any other possible way, God would have spared His Son. But there was no other way. It had to be Jesus. It could never have been us. It was Plan A and the only way.
Justification is a legal concept. It is getting a favorable verdict in court on judgement day. Paul is wanting us to see that because of Jesus, we can get a favorable verdict before God when He comes to judge the world.
Imagine being in court with a pile of charges rightly mounted against you. Though you tried to live a good life, you know you are guilty of all of these offenses and the judge will surely sentence you harshly. The little slip here, the falling into the bad crowd season there, the really stupid decision that day. But just as the judge is about to read your punishment, Jesus walks in and agrees to take the penalty for your offenses and you are free to go home; to start over with a clean slate, living a new life of freedom.
When Jesus died on the cross, He substituted our sin for His righteousness. We are crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. Our sins were nailed to that cross. The penalty was paid in full. We are free to go.
And Jesus willingly did it, as Paul points out in verse 20, because He LOVES US. He isn’t a superhero who swoops in to save the day, then dashes back to headquarters. He is someone who KNOWS US. Not just the general “world”, but the individual us.
And He LOVES US. Enough to die for us. Why would we want to add anything to that?
Galatians Day 4 – Galatians 2:11-14
This reads a little like a middle school lunch room scene when the popular crowd enters the cafeteria. That group you were just laughing and making plans with, you are now slowly sliding away from, hoping to not get noticed; hoping to not be seen with “those people.”
Peter – who first received the revelation from God that He showed no partiality between Gentiles and Jews (Acts 10)– is happily eating with the Gentiles in Antioch…UNTIL…some men from the Jewish elite come to town. He slowly draws back, separating himself from the Gentiles, hoping to not get noticed; hoping to not be seen with “those people.”
Peter knows full well that nothing in the Jewish law is required for salvation. He lives in the freedom of the work of Christ alone, yet he quickly reverts to old ways when these men come to town.
The crazy thing is that Peter is one of the most prominent Christian leaders at the time. And even he succumbs to fear.
It is a doozy of an emotion that causes us to do all sorts of things we don’t want to do and know we shouldn’t do.
Fears cripple us and leads us down ungodly paths…fear of what these people will think, fear of being talked about, fear of mission out, fear of compromising our prestigious position, fear of not fitting in, fear of failing...
So, what do we do?
The opposite of fear isn’t bravery. It is faith.
We have to be secure in our beliefs. We have to be assured in the truth. We have to have confidence that God has our back; He is for us. We have to trust that God works all things for good. We have to believe that it is better to please God than man…even ourselves.
Faith is the only thing that can help us overcome fear. Peter intellectually had faith – he believed these Gentiles were saved by the work of Jesus and free of the demands of the law – but he let his guard down and let fear take over.
I’m sure Paul was nervous confronting Peter, but he wasn’t afraid. He had faith. He knew truth was on his side. This was one of those big issues worth fighting for. It was about gospel truth and salvation. This public demonstration by Peter required a public confrontation by Paul.
Why not just let it go? Because disobedience is a slippery slope. It starts off small; seemingly no big deal, and then it grows, like yeast. Before you know it, it has morphed into something enormous. It needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Look how quickly other believers – loyal, faithful co-leader Barnabas, and then the rest of the Jewish Christians – followed the direction of Peter.
Fear leading to destructive behaviors can happen to anyone, regardless of beliefs, standing, or position.
We must work out our faith (Philippians 2:12). We all must remain in God, always seeking His guidance, direction, and truth.
Faith over fear.
Galatians Day 3 – Galatians 2:1-10
The false teachers are relentless, causing increasing division. Unity is a big deal to God. It’s time to confront this elephant in the room head on. After 14 years, God tells Paul to go to Jerusalem.
Four times Paul refers to the leaders as ones who “seem influential” or “seem to be pillars”. If feels snippy, but Paul is recognizing their clout in the Church. These are the people looked to for guidance and authority.
Paul acknowledges their status, but says it makes no difference to him; they add nothing to what he received directly from God; God shows no partiality.
These men may be Christian “super-stars”, have all the “followers”, bring in the big crowds, get all the attention….but, in God’s eyes, they are no better than Paul or anyone else who is doing what God called and ordained them to do.
There are no top dogs in God’s eyes, regardless of how it may look to the outside world. In fact, in God’s upside-down-first-will-be-last kingdom, the top dogs are likely on the bottom.
If you are abiding in God and He has given you a calling, you are just as important and qualified as anyone else fulfilling their God-given calling.
If God is telling you to write, you are no less qualified than a best-selling author. If God is telling you to teach, you are no less important than a mega-church pastor. If God is telling you to start a non-profit, you are no less equipped than the founder of a multi-million-dollar organization.
God shows no partiality.
To the sideline observer, Paul may look like a failure. He is fighting for these fledgling churches he planted to not lose their faithfulness. He had a “thorn in his side” that God wouldn’t remove. He is in prison for the later part of his life. But here we are 2,000 years later sitting under his teaching.
The same spirit in them, with all the associated power, is in all of us. God only asks us for obedience; He makes the magic happen.
A few final thoughts…
Paul doesn’t go to Jerusalem alone. He brings Barnabas (one of them) and Titus (an uncircumcised Greek believer). It is a reminder that we aren’t on this life journey alone. Make sure you have your people, and bring them when needed.
Fight for the gospel. Confront anything that distorts the gospel. It matters to the salvation of those we love. Keep the big things the big things, then fight for unity. It matters to God.
Don’t be intimidated or feel less-than when it comes to your calling. Press on. Remain obedient. It’s in God’s hands.
Remember the poor. In such a weighty doctrinal debate over salvation itself, the final directive is to remember those in need. Jesus bought our Salvation with His blood, and Jesus modeled caring for those in need. It is what He came for (Luke 4:16-21).
Galatians Advent Study Day 2 - Galatians 1:11-24
Has God recently revealed something to you? Or maybe you feel like you are in a desert of sorts? This part of Galatians is for you!
In this battle for the hearts and minds of the Galatians, Paul is relentless. It is him versus all the false teachers that came behind him. It is critical they remember where the true Gospel they heard and believed came from; that they don’t look at it as just Paul’s word versus another man’s word. It is God’s Word.
Paul reminds them it was not preached by God. It was not received by man. It was not something he was taught. It came directly from Jesus (Acts 9:1-19).
What Paul tells us about his actions after receiving the revelation from Jesus is not to be overlooked. He did not immediately consult with anyone or go to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.
Instead, he went away. Alone. To the desert in Arabia. For three years.
Paul’s world was rocked. Everything he thought was true was turned upside down.
Paul knew all of the Jewish law, customs, Scriptures – most even by memory – but he didn’t know Jesus.
He wanted to learn from Jesus – the One the law pointed to; the One who fulfilled the law.
Paul needed time to process and reevaluate everything about this new revelation.
Why Arabia? The desert is a special time of preparation in the Bible. Moses was in the desert 40 years prior to being called by God to set the Israelites free from Egyptian slavery. It would prepare him to lead the Israelites through desert for 40 years before entering the promised land. The Israelites time in the desert taught them who God was and what it meant to follow and worship Him.
David spent much time in the desert prior to becoming King of Israel, hiding for his life, but also drawing near to God. Here he wrote many of the Psalms.
Jesus, upon being baptized, immediately went and prayed and fasted in the desert for 40 days, overcoming temptation from the devil himself. Preparation for His public ministry (Matthew 3:13-4:11)
Like the apostles in Jerusalem -- the ones who walked with Jesus three years and were specifically appointed by Him -- Paul needed quality time with Jesus.
So, Paul spends three years in the desert preparing for his calling.
Deuteronomy 8:2-6 gives some insight into what desert times teach us and prepare us for: They humble us (8:2), they reveal what is in our heart (8:2), they challenge us to keep His commands (8:2), they remind us that God alone provides all our needs (8:3-4), and they remind us to fear and obey Him (8:5-6).
Has God revealed something to you? As tempting as it is to run to another teacher or consult human advice, run to God first. Spend that quiet time in conversation with Him. Process it with God first. Paul eventually does consult with Peter and James, leaders of this new Christian movement after three years. Paul knows consultation with wise and Godly counsel is important. But FIRST, he is alone with God.
Has your world been rocked? Do you feel like you are going through a desert time? If so, as painful as it is, take hope and encouragement in knowing that God is preparing you in a special way for a calling. He wants to draw you near to Him to teach you something that can only be taught in the desert.
I’m praying now for all those in desert times; that instead of fighting and lamenting it, you are embracing it; that you are drawing nearer to God and being filled with His love and knowledge and power.
Galatians Advent Study Day 1 - Galatians 1:1-10
Deep down, beneath all of the layers of what we tell ourselves and how we seek to present ourselves, are we trying to please man or God? Whose approval are we really seeking in what we say and do and post and share?
Paul asserts that seeking the approval of man and trying to please man is a disqualifier for being a servant of Christ. They are incongruent. Mutually exclusive.
That gives me pause, because if I'm honest, more times than not I am seeking the approval of man. Maybe I feel like God already loves me no matter what…kind of like how we take things out on our family we would never do to our friends. They love us and are stuck with us. Is that how I treat God? But maybe it is even more offensive than that, based on pride, without even consideration of God’s approval. Do I put the majority of my efforts into pleasing others whose approval really means nothing, does nothing for my eternal salvation, and is certainly fragile and fleeting?
Sure, during my quiet time I am all-in for God; even recognizing and repenting of times when God wasn’t in His proper place in my choices and actions. But once the lights come on, the kids’ feet shuffle down the stairs, I scroll through social media or start to tackle the to-do lists, where does my approval shift?
Paul is setting up this letter to the Galatians (this letter to you and me) ASTONISHED they are so quick to desert the Gospel. Three things he says about these false teachers leading them astray:
None of these things leads to freedom. It is the same ole, same ole schemes of the devil… Just enough truth, a splash of scripture mixed in for good measure, and deliciously topped off with lies and a lure to please ourselves. He used this formula with Adam & Eve, with Jesus on the mountain, and he continues to use it with us.
The lure of the world is a strong, often very obvious, force against us, but these false prophets are trickier than that. I’m often taken aback by all the warnings of false teachers Jesus and the apostles caution us about. I wonder if I would so easily be swayed by their lure and charisma.. Paul’s description of these false teachers give us some clues to recognizing them early on.
Are we troubled? The Holy Spirit gives us warnings and discernment. Even when something feels good to the flesh and our emotions, if we are in the Word and listening to the Spirit, we will feel troubled if it is not of God.
Is the Gospel being distorted…added to or subtracted from? Though they are quoting scripture, are they also throwing in things that aren’t in God’s Word? Are they distorting and tweaking things here and there? Are they adding anything to the sufficiency of Jesus to be saved?
Is God getting second place? Are they all about attention for themselves, with an afterthought of giving glory to God?
Bottom line for us to remember: There is only ONE Gospel. There is only ONE to please. There is only ONE worthy of approval.
Paul is stern in this letter. This is a BIG deal, worthy of strong words.
If we want freedom, we need to insist on no other gods or gospels in our lives.
Jesus, the one who was eagerly anticipated over 2,000 years ago…the one we eagerly await to return, is the ONLY Gospel and Savior.
Here’s the really good news for us today: No matter how many times we mess up getting this right, we are an equal number of times loved and forgiven. That is the beauty of this message, this Gospel. Jesus saves, not us. Faith in what Jesus did secures our salvation, not us getting this or anything else right on our own. Nothing needs to be added to what He already did for us. Our job is to let our gratitude for this freedom overflow into our lives, seeking only His approval, and truly being a servant of Christ. And we won’t get it right. Ever. And that’s okay. His forgiveness is unlimited.
If you feel tempted to be hard on yourself for falling short, breathe in the freedom of Christ. Go again, even if for the one-millionth time, and apologize to the One who was pleased to do the work He knew we couldn’t do for us. Rest in His still, quiet voice telling you, “I’ve got this; peace be with you.”
It is good news. It is freedom.
Tomorrow starts the beginning of the Advent season. I’ve decided to go though Galatians during the season and would love you to join me.
I know what you are thinking…Galatians, for Advent?
Yes! Galatians, for Advent.
John MacArthur refers to Galatians as the Freedom Charter, the Magna Carta of Christian liberty. Martin Luther, the initiator of the Reformation, said Galatians was “his” epistle, that he was wed to it. It was the heart of the Reformation; the Gospel message that sinners ae saved, not by works of the law, but by grace alone through faith alone because of what Christ alone did.
And I believe we need a little freedom in our lives. We need to let some things go.
We become enslaved again when we try to add anything to Jesus.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, a study of His sufficiency alone feels right.
I’ve included a calendar below with verses to read, ponder, and study each weekday during the three weeks of Advent.
I’ll post some thoughts here based on each day’s reading and I would love your thoughts too. The most incredible thing about the Bible is how it speaks to us differently in different seasons of our life. I would love to hear how God is speaking to you through these truths.
I hope you’ll join me as we anticipate the coming of our Savior and remind ourselves of the freedom He came to bring us.