Archive for the ‘Galatians’ Category

You know, at the end of the day, it’s not about the number of hits on a blog. It’s not the amount of people who clicked “Like” on your Facebook. It’s not the size of the crowd you spoke to, or the response afterwards during the invitation. It’s not about the favors that we see returned, or the times our back in scratched because we helped someone else out. It’s not about looks of gratitiude in response to our service, it’s not about people thanking us for what we’ve done.

‘Cause if we let these things fuel us, what happens when the blog isn’t read? What if no one cares about what you’ve posted on Facebook? What if the crowd gets steadily smaller, or the invitation passes by without any fanfare? What if no one returns our favors or cares that we’ve gone out of our way to help them?

Too often it’s easiest to throw in the towel and quit “wasting” our time. Or we can whine about how the situation isn’t playing out the way that we feel it should be. Pity parties are fun, and I’m often tempted to throw one for myself from time to time.

Paul doesn’t give us that luxury, though. No sir. He instead gives us a promise that should motivate us to stick with it, to get back on our feet, to keep pressing forward. The promise? “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

How cool is that? Stick with it, and it will pay out. Give up, and you’ll never see results.

I don’t know where you are in life, and I don’t know what kind of things you’re doing to further the Kingdom, but Paul promises that it will pan out if you just keep on keeping on. That’s a promise I plan to collect on!

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Galatians 5. Good Balance.

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Galatians

In this chapter we see Paul confronting those who are teaching the idea that followers of Christ are still bound by the Law, that their salvation is contingent upon their obedience to God. One of the “rules” still being applied was that of circumcision. This ticks Paul off so much that he says “Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!” Never a dull moment in the Message, lol.

But here’s the thing. Though we’re no longer bound by the law, Paul also points out that true believers cannot, as a way of life, live as helliously as we did prior to our conversion. If we are in Christ, we will be changed. But at the same time, we will fail.

Paul says this, and this is the key to victorious living: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” If your goal is holiness and you’re striving to live the life God has called you to, you will have victory over sin. But it takes a concentrated effort. Are you still making one?

Galatians 4. Get it Right!

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Galatians

I can’t remember the context of the comment now, but a few days ago I had the occasion to hear about man who would have been happy to simply “make it into heaven” as a janitor. To him, entry at all would be welcome, regardless of the station he entered with. Pretty noble, right? I don’t need a huge mansion- just a little shack a few miles away from where Jesus stays. If God will let me in, I’m content not to bother Him for all eternity.

 

Not quite.

 

My response to this was simply, “He doesn’t understand the fullness of grace.”

 

This is what I mean. This fella was thinking that if God would simply forgive his sins and allow him into heaven in the most lowly of positions, then he would be content. But how does Paul describe us in Galatians four? As children of God. Heirs of the promises. God doesn’t see us as servants, beggars, or unwelcome intruders. He sees us as His children. He’s not going to let us into Heaven and ignore us for eternity. He’s going to welcome us with open arms and embrace us as His sons and daughters. For eternity.

 

How’s that for an awesome thought?

            Galatians three contains a vast array of theological awesomeness, but there is one key element that keeps popping up in my mind. Those of you that know me know that I often poke a little satirical fun at the popular and historically modern (read “unbiblical and historically non-existent”) practice of altar calls and “asking Jesus into your heart,” a.k.a. the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

            Now I know that this issue is touchy, because many solid men and women of God trace their conversion back to the moment when they first asked Jesus into their hearts, and I’m not intending to cast doubt upon their salvation. There is no doubt that when God began to work in these people’s hearts, their response was to raise their hand, go forward to the altar, and ask Jesus into their heart. It was the only way they knew how to respond to the inward work of the Holy Spirit, and their response was one of faith…exactly what Paul brings to the remembrance of the Galatians.

            This is the cool part, though. Paul is asking his readers whether or not they received the Holy Spirit through “works of the Law.” In other words, were they justified, or “saved” by their obedience to the Law? It’s a rhetorical question. Of course they weren’t, because they were all sinners. Paul then gives them the obvious means of their salvation, which was “hearing with faith.”

            Interesting, that phrase is. There is no public response required (though of course public confession via baptism comes afterwards), there is no “I see that hand.” There is no “leave your seat and come talk to the pastor,” or a “ask Jesus into your heart.” At the moment of faith in Christ through the message of the Gospel, a person is justified and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Believe, and you will be saved.

            Now here’s the kicker…if a man (or woman) is asking Jesus into their heart, they are doing this as the only way they know how to express their faith in God and ask His forgiveness for their sins against Him. This of course would indicate that they are believing the Gospel, and since we are saved by grace through faith, then technically this person at the altar has already been justified by God, even before they begin to repeat a rote prayer asking for said justification. So…the phrase “sinner’s prayer” is nonsensical at its core, because when the person is praying to God, God doesn’t even see them as sinners anymore! It should be called the “Brand-New Saint’s Prayer,” because in reality that’s what it is. It is a verbal affirmation of one’s faith in the Gospel, acceptance of God’s forgiveness, and gratitude for what Jesus did for them.

            Being granted salvation because of speaking? That’s salvation by works. Being saved by grace and sharing it with the world? That’s Biblical.

Galatians 2. Pete’s a Turd.

Posted: December 9, 2011 in Galatians

Imagine being called out by Paul.

In the Bible.

Ouch!

See, Peter was chillaxin’ with a group of Gentiles (non-Jews). Eating, even. Which was ok, because Peter was no longer bound by the Old Testament dietary laws, because Jesus had freed him (and all Christ followers) from the Law. So everything’s all good, Pete’s chillin’ with the boys, and then a group of super-religious Jews come to town, and what does Peter do?

He becomes super-Jew too, and runs to his Jewish homies to hang with, imspiring them to act as super-Jews as well.

Not cool, Peter.

Says Paul, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Or in other words, “Pete, you can’t even keep the Law yourself, but now you’re going to try to make non-Jews follow the same Law that you yourself fail at?? Remember this, Peter…no one is saved apart from grace.”

Peter wanted to change who he was based on his audience, when we as Christians simply can’t afford to do that. We’re to be the Jesus-exalting, God-honoring, Spirit-pleasing followers of Christ that we claim to be, 24/7, 365 days a year- regardless of who we’re around.

Galatians 1. Go to Heck!

Posted: December 8, 2011 in Galatians

While the title of this post might be somewhat humorous, Paul’s attitude is anything but jokative in this opening chapter of his letter to the Christians in Galatia. In its context, Paul’s comment comes on the heels of his affirmation of salvation by grace- a concept he would have intimate knowledge of, given his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.

But check this out: “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

That phrase “let him be accursed”? It means “let him be damned.” As in, damned to hell. There is no “let’s be friends and explore our differences.” You don’t see him saying “let’s agree to disagree.” Paul has absolutely no compassion or interest in those preaching a false means of salvation, because he knows that there is no hope apart from Jesus Christ. Paul’s faith, and the true Gospel, is something that he was willing to die defending. Do we have that same passion today, or does the Gospel bore us? Can we even articulate it? Are we sharing it with others?

How central to your life is the message of God’s salvation?