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.
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