“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 as Paul brings his letter to a close, he excuses his transcribing companion and grabs the pen and parchment. Pouring out more of himself, Paul personally pens the final paragraph, closing 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 in different seasons. There will be times when we will bear painful marks of a follower. But 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 and restoration.
What marks are you willing to bear for Jesus?
Galatians 5 • Day 167 of 260 • #NTin2018
Paul gives a warning to the Corinthians: 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.”
Sound familiar? Thousands of years have passed since Paul penned these words and the church is still battling the biting, devouring and consumption of one another. Both organizationally and personally. What is wrong with us? What opportunities we are missing to change the world!
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. Utter consumption; destruction.
Paul reminds us the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you should love your neighbors as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). Paul is basically saying, “You are so stuck on the law? You want to keep the law? Here is how to do it: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
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 4 - Post 1 of 2 (Galatians 1:1-7)
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son.” (Galatians 4:4)
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.
What we now celebrate on the same predictable and scheduled time each year, the timing wasn’t as perfect or predictable for everyone on that first Christmas.
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, mocked by others for their menial profession, and long boring nights keeping watch. This was no ordinary day as an 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 on that first Christmas was 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.
Thank you, God, that even though I can’t always see it or grasp it, your timing is perfect.
Galatians 4 - Post 2 of 2
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 with… 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, becoming slaves to them once more? (Galatians 4:9)
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.
Galatians 2 – Post 2 of 3 (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 missing 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 2 – post 3 of 3 (Galatians 2:15-21)
Paul reminds us 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 2 – Post 1 of 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.
Fight for the gospel. Confront anything that distorts the gospel. It matters to the salvation of those we love. Don’t be intimidated or feel less-than when it comes to your calling. Press on. Remain obedient. It’s in God’s hands. Keep the big things the big things, then fight for unity. It matters to God.
Galatians 1 (post 1 of 2)
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: (1) they are troubling them, (2) they want to distort the Gospel of Christ, and (3) they seek approval for themselves, not God.
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.
The lure of the world is a strong, often very obvious, force against us, but these false prophets are trickier than that. Are we easily swayed by their smooth talk and charisma? Paul’s description of these false teachers gives 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.
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.
Galatians 1 (post 2 of 2)
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 to him. 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.
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.
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus