Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This is Christianity

Galatians 6:1-5

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

What if you see someone sinning, what do you do? This is such a loaded question, because it does not define sin (transgression). For some, it would mean taking a drink of alcohol, or going to an "R" rated movie, or wearing a shirt that shows to much cleavage or smoking a cigarette, or questioning something that the preacher has said. I am not so sure that is the kind of transgressions this is speaking of. It is not about being the "Spiritual police." In fact, it goes on to say that "you who are spiritual should restore him." Wow! Talk about a passage that is open for abuse! Didn't the Pharisees consider themselves spiritual? What does it mean, "you who are spiritual? And notice that even the spiritual are open to temptation.

What I think this means is that if we see someone who is doing something that goes against the fruit of the Spirit, someone who is abusive or thinks that their freedom in Christ gives them the right to behave in any manner, then one who understands the truth of the gospel should take them under their wing and seek to bring them back to the truth of the gospel in a loving and caring manner. The caution here is a valid one, because in doing this, you might be tempted and pulled away by their sin, by their lifestyle. This is Christianity, that we are not just concerned about our own salvation, but that we care for our brothers as well. We bear their burdens as our own, we place ourselves in their shoes, because that is what Christ did for us. We fulfill the law of Christ in doing this because it shows that we love one another.

But don't get the big head. Wearing the title "spiritual" (or deacon, elder, pastor, etc.) does not make you anything special in the eyes of God. We are all of Christ, all a part of the body, and no one part can function or exist on its own, so don't think of yourself as so important. If you do, you are only fooling yourself.

So test your work, evaluate your purpose, and remember that when you will answer to God it will be for your choices, and not what your brother has done or how they have responded to you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A little advice...

Galatians 5:25-26

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Last post talked about living by the Spirit. These two verses offer some interesting thoughts.

First, is that if we live by the Spirit, we will keep in step with the Spirit. At first, I think, "Well, duh!, isn't that obvious?" But then I think again. I am a child, and God is the Father. Can my children keep up with me if I don't sometimes slow down and wait? And that is a beautiful thought, that God my Father patiently watches me, and waits for me was I try to keep pace with Him.

Another thought over this same idea is that of a runner training for a race. If I want to be successful, I have to push myself. Keeping in step with the Spirit is not always an easy task.

The second idea is found in verse 26. We are so human, and as such, we tend to take pride in our successes, even when we are not completely responsible for them. Don't believe me? Think of your favorite sports team, the one you have on your t-shirts and wall of you den and etc. Was was the last time you scored a basket (or field goal, or home run, depending on the sport) for them? Yet how do you feel when they are successful? So to combat our crazy pride in that which God has done for us, Paul offers the reminder to not become conceited. Conceit provokes. And don't envy. It's not about you.

Monday Music

I have been a fan of Third Day for quite a while now. This song has always been a favorite. But I had not seen this video before. At first, I thought it was a bit strange. Then I thought about the concept, singing a praise song in the midst of what is probably an ordinary day, in the midst of people who have no clue. Its not about evangelism, it is just about worship. That's what I took from it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I need a really big hammer...

Galatians 5:16-24

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

What does it mean to "walk by the Spirit?" I guess in part, that depends on your theology, and how much of a choice you have in the matter. I believe that we do possess certain choices, while God orchestrates the big picture. So walking by the Spirit is a choice that the Christian must make, and the goal is for the Christian to experience a greater joy and closer relationship with God by intentionally seeking Him. And the closer that relationship, the lesser our desire to do those things that would lessen that joy.

The flesh and the Spirit are at war. The Bible makes that clear. And I am flesh, so my desires are at war with the Spirit. As a being of flesh, I am out to please myself. But as a being of flesh, I am also blind to the things of the Spirit, and the joy that can be found in surrender and obedience.

I don't want the word obedience to be misinterpreted. It is not about following an external set of rules. If we are in submission to the Spirit, we are not under the law. But because of our relationship, our love, our joy, we will not do things that go against the Spirit.

The fruits of the flesh are obvious. Or at least they would be if we weren't so blind. So Paul lists them for us in case there was any doubt. The fruit of the Spirit should be obvious too. But again, just in case there is any doubt, Paul lists them. These are not a law, but rather a fulfillment of a relationship with God.

He closes with this statement: "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." That doesn't sound optional. But then I read about the struggle with the flesh in Romans. We are not yet perfect, but we cannot take our walk with the Spirit lightly.

If we are struggling with this, I am reminded of a mechanic's saying that somewhat applies here. "If at first you don't succeed, a bigger hammer is what you need." Excuse me, while I run to the hardware store.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Where is freedom found?

Galatians 5:13-15

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Freedom, it's not just a pipe dream, it's a calling. Thinking about that statement, that we were called to freedom. It means that when we live in some kind of bondage, we are not fulfilling our calling. Again, Paul issues a disclaimer, the freedom he speaks of is not a freedom of the flesh. It is not an absolute freedom to live as we please, do as we please. That is so opposed to the gospel message of surrender, sacrifice, and carrying our own cross. No, it is the freedom to live out what is innate in all of us, being created in God's image. It is the ability to not be under the control of some compulsion or sin. It is the freedom to honestly seek and obtain our heart's desires.

So where is this freedom found? It is found in submission, of all the ironical places. Submission to God and to one another. It is found in love. Not ooey gooey love, but Godly love that lays down its life for the sake of others.

It is not the kind of freedom that some want. But it is the only true freedom some will ever know.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Can you hear that whispering voice?

Galatians 5:7-12

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

The Galatians started out on the right track. They were doing well in believing and following the Gospel of Christ. They were living in the freedom that Christ's sacrifice provides. But then things took a wrong turn. Not that they were hindered. Who (or what) hindered them? Was it the same voice that whispered to Eve in the garden? Or was it more like the voice that spoke to Adam? (I am not referring to the fact that Eve was a woman here, but rather that she was a victim of the lies of Satan, and as such was a human voice to a lie.)

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Regardless of where the voice started, it works its way through the entire batch of dough, infecting the good dough. That is what happened in Galatia, they were following the gospel that Paul had laid before them, when some whispering voices came in, appealing to their "reason," and said things that lead them from grace to legalism. Voices that whispered, "God doesn't love you enough, you have to try harder," or "grace alone will not suffice, how does that make sense," and other such nonsense.

Paul was convinced that with a little guidance, they would return to the truth of the gospel message. He even asks why he was being persecuted if he still preached circumcision? If Paul preached circumcision, or any other type of legalism, the Jews would not be persecuting him, because his preaching would not offend them. No bloody cross of Christ, no offense!

I will leave you to your own thoughts about verse 12. All I can say is that I like Paul, a real straight shooter with an awesome sense of humor.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To circumcise or not to circumcise, that is the question?

Galatians 5:2-6

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Here's is what Paul is not saying, he is not saying that if you were circumcised when you were a child, or at any prior time for that matter, you are going to hell. What he is saying is that if you think that God owes you a place in heaven based on your circumcision, then you have no need of Christ's sacrifice. But here's the catch, if you rely on one part of the law to save you, you must rely on every part of the law, and therefore keep every part.

Here's what I find amazing, if you seek to be a law keeper on the merits of the ability of the law to save you, then you separate yourself from Christ. And I don't think that is something we want to do. If you seek justification from the law, you surrender your justification through grace! So what is the basis for our actions? Faith working through love.

We wait for the hope of righteousness. Actually, that word hope can be translated "anticipation." So we wait for the fulfillment of the promise of righteousness which is found through faith. See, that is one of the things about the good news of the gospel, it takes the pressure off of me to perform and creates in me a means to respond to God's love. And if you ain't doing it that way, you might just be doing it for nothing!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Freedom for what?

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

I think that the concept of freedom is a difficult one for those of us in the west to understand. Slavery has been abolished for a long time, and I believe we truly have a heard time grasping what it means to be a slave and what it means to be free. When we think of freedom, it is freedom from responsibility, like winning the lottery. That is not the kind of self-centered freedom the Bible speaks of. When a slave is set free, his life changes. What he used to depend on for his daily sustenance is now gone. The harsh master is no more, but the slave is now free to live a life based on what he chooses. In today's economy, that could be quite rough! Freedom carries responsibility, perhaps even more responsibility than being a slave. But, rather than depend on a harsh and cruel master, true freedom empowers one to experience a joy that they could not know under such a master. It is for the sake of such freedom that Christ sets us free.

So why go back? That is the very point of the book of Galatians! Why go back to living under the law when Christ frees up from the cruelty of the law. Not that we have an absolute freedom to live as we please, but now we choose to obey in response to what Christ has done for us.

In slavery, not all master were cruel. Some only had one or two slaves, and chose to treat them with some dignity. Some of these slaves chose to remain with such masters. They continued to serve, even though they could leave. Perhaps their daily lives did not look much different, except that where they once had no choice and lived in fear, they now had a choice and could live in freedom. And perhaps some, out of the sheer joy of having a good master, now put their hearts into their responsibilities, and worked harder than before. That is where turning the other cheek comes from, going the extra mile. Why? Because we are free. Free to live and love in a way that we did not know was possible. Free to surrender to God because He is the only way, the truth, and the life. I couldn't earn my way to God under the law, but my life now is a response to the freedom I find in knowing that I don't have to, that the debt has been paid. Praise God!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Music

I just want to sit in front of the computer, set it to full screen, and worship. Toward the end, when the children's voices come in, it just sends chills through me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Which way do I go?

Galatians 4:21-31

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”  So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

I think that to understand what this passage is about, we have to look at who Paul was just talking about. He is warning the Galatians about those who would steal their joy by subjecting them to the requirements of the law all over again. He is talking about people who make much of themselves, who put themselves up in places of honor, much like the Pharisees did, while placing large burdens on their followers. Notice that I said their followers, not their fellow followers of Christ.

Paul gives an illustration from the Old Testament to prove his point.He begins by asking them if they follow the law. Are they in complete compliance? Because if you rely on the law, you must rely on the law alone. And through his illustration, Paul shows that the law leads to bondage. But freedom comes through the promise, and the promise if from God.

Look at the burdens that are placed on their followers. They preach the tithe, and some buy into it. But if the tithe they give is an obligation, if it is done out of an attempt to appease God and have Him look more favorably on you, rather than your response of the joy of your salvation, then all it is is a burden. God loves a cheerful giver, not an obligated one.

Or look at special service projects. One church I know spent one week encouraging people to serve in the community. They gave out t-shirts, and had people report on all of the ways that they had worked during that week. Then they could sit back and feel good about all they had done. But one week out of 52 isn't even a tithe of your time.

I could go on, but the point of the passage, I believe, is freedom, joy, and a response to God that is based on freedom and not obligation. It is not about what we do, but what God has done. And this plan that God had, was not based on an obligation to us. We have no hold over Him that could ever cause him to be obligated to us. No, it was based on His love and mercy. So it makes sense that what He wants in return is not a moral obligation to give Him a portion of what He so freely gave us, but rather a response of love as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tough Questions

Galatians 4:17-20

They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

They make much of you. That is, they make you feel good, warm, welcome, secure. But their motives are not true, they are not based on the gospel. In fact, they want to shut you out of the kingdom, so that you will make much of them. If you were in the kingdom, you would see through their charade.

It is good to be made much of for a good purpose, that is it is good to be noticed for doing good if that notice brings glory to God. But I am puzzled, because I think you have strayed from your worship of God and are now worshiping yourself or others in place of God. What kind of idiot does that? Certainly not someone who has understood the message of the gospel! You people amaze me with your behavior.

Harsh words? Yes! But Paul is trying to save them from a terrible fate. If you saw someone about to run into traffic, you wouldn't whisper, "Are you sure about this?" Or say, "Perhaps this choice is not an appropriate one at the moment." NO, YOU WOULD YELL AT THEM TO STOP, unafraid if their feelings were going to be hurt.

So when is it okay to risk hurting someone's feelings? How did Jesus respond to those who distorted the truth? Tough questions, but ones that deserve consideration.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time changes things

Galatians 4:12-16

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.  What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?

I believe that when Paul begs them to become as he is, he means it as someone who is in complete submission to and in love with God. He cannot imagine a better life, and desires the best for those who are his audience, and for all for that matter. Even though he is weak, even though he suffers in his body, his passion and zeal for Christ do not wane. He reminds them of his former visit, how even though a weak mess of a man, they regarded him as a brother, or even as Christ himself in the way that they treated him. They would have given anything to help him to further preach the message of Christ.

But now, has time changed that? Is he now an enemy because they have had time to reconsider? Or is it because of those who have distorted the gospel he preached with such passion and at such a cost? Has truth now become a stumbling block?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Music

Okay, this is a compilation. But there is some music in the background. Gospel.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Diamond in the Rough

Galatians 4:8-11

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

I just read a chapter in Francis Chan's, "The Forgotten God," that referred to this verse. He talks about the fact that it is one thing to know God, and quite another to be known by God. Just like it is one thing to know Brian Urlacher, and another thing to be known by him.

God knows me. The creator of the universe knows me. That is humbling. Who cares about the trivial things anymore. It is no longer about me reaching out for God, but God reaching out to me. I might fail in my pursuit, but He will not fail in His.

What a hidden gem of a verse!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Galatians 4:1-7

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

That first phrase is interesting, saying that a child is no different from a slave! Yet in some ways, especially in this culture, it is true. The child might have better living quarters, and better treatment, yet the child does not have any of the inheritance. They are bankrupt, just like the slave. Yet in another sense, they have the promise of the ownership of a great inheritance. Even though they possess the inheritance, they cannot use it as they wish, but are under the authority of guardians until they reach a time that the inheritance is theirs to do with as they please. They are under authority, just like a slave is.

So rejoice. Rejoice that though we are under authority, we know that as sons, the inheritance is ours. That is the promise. And as children of God, we love him, we cry out to him, Daddy! Father! We love you!

So while we are both enslaved in some ways, our enslavement is with a promise of an inheritance. A promise  of a wonderful future. A promise, in this case, not to have that fulfillment when our father is gone, but to have it when we meet Him face to face. A promise that should lead us to joy in all circumstance.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What a relief!

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ haveput on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Prior to the coming and teaching of Jesus, things were different. Until his coming, the way of God had not been fully revealed. The only knowledge we had of God was from the law, and the glimpses of grace that were provided along the way.

One such glimpse is David, that murdering, adulterous, man after God's own heart. How can the Bible call a man like David a man after God's own heart? Sure, he did some great things, he wrote some incredible Psalms, he stood up to Goliath, but he also did some things that we on the other end of the spectrum as well. So how can the Bible call him a man after God's own heart? Grace.

Another glimpse is Moses. He did some incredible stuff as well. But he was a reluctant hero, telling God that he should choose his brother because he was a better speaker. And he was not able to enter the promised land because of his disobedience. Yet there he is in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). More grace in action.

The law was our keeper, a protector until Christ came and revealed obedience through faith. People often did not want to keep the law, but did so out of fear of God. It protected them even when they did not like it or could not understand it. But now, it is our faith that protects us. Externally, it may look similar. We still don't murder. Grace can still cover that, but faith does not lead us to be murders. Or adulterers. Or even little white liars.

Once the law led us, now faith does. The law could not redeem us, but faith can. Faith can because it comes from a pledge of a good conscience toward God. Even in faith, we are not perfect, but as heirs, the inheritance is given based on God's promise, and not our obedience. What a relief!

Medic! Medic!

Galatians 3:21-22

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The law was a temporary bandage until Christ fulfilled all things on our behalf. Is the law contrary to the promises of God? Is the medic on the battlefield contrary to the doctor at the MASH unit who will perform surgery on the wounded soldier? Of course not!

If the medic could impart life, would he? Surely he would, but he does not have the ability, just like the law does not have the ability to impart life. If it could, it would, and Christ's sacrifice becomes unnecessary.

I find the phrase "But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin" to be fascinating. Could it mean that "that which was written (the law) entrapped us in disobedience, so that the promise, through the fidelity of Christ, can be granted to those to whom it has been entrusted ."?

Any Greek scholars out there?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I've been shot!

Galatians 3:19-20

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Why did God give us the law, if the law is insufficient to save us?

Why put pressure on a gunshot wound, when the victim is still on the way to the hospital?

The law was a temporary solution. Left to ourselves, when the time was not right for God to send His Son, we would bleed to death. We would show our true selves, and suffering and evil would increase exponentially. The law was added because we by nature are vile sinners. It was pressure on the wound, until the coming of the Son, the offspring promised to Abraham through which salvation would come.

The law was put into place through angles by a go-between between man and God (The Holy Spirit?)

Ah! More confusion about the Holy Spirit! And I admit, I don't understand it all. How can the Spirit be God, and yet intercede for us with God? Yet I believe He does.

Sorry I can't be more enlightening today. Perhaps you can chew on it a while and render some insightful comments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

God does not break His promises!

Galatians 3:15-18

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Paul is offering a defense of what he has taught, that the Galatians have drifted away from. Paul preached a gospel message of freedom from the law, where our relationship with God is no longer based on a set of rules and regulations, but is now a relationship based on a love for God that guides our thoughts and actions. This relationship supercedes the law.

So Paul creates an analogy, based on something that they should understand, human law. Even with man, once a covenant is established, no one can change it on a mere whim. Whether it be the decree of a king or the constitution of a country, no one can modify that on their own. 

Promises were made to Abraham and his offspring (singular). Paul says that that offspring refers to one, and that one is Christ. It was not for another 430 years after the promise that the law came into existence, so how can the law be a means of fulfilling the promise? The law does not change or fulfill the promise, therefore our fulfilling the law (if that were even possible) does not void the promise, nor does it enable us to fulfill the promise. 

He does on show that if our inheritance (salvation) is through the law, then inf fact, God has broken His promise that He gave to Abraham. And God does not break His promises.

So why, Galatians, Christians, Brothers, are you seeking to follow and external obedience that in itself has nothing to do with your salvation?

God does not break His promises.

Interesting Article (Link)

10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now (Time Magazine)

#3  The New Calvinism

Monday, January 7, 2013

I can do that now.

Galatians 3:10-14

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

This seems to be a continuation of the previous thought, only this time he brings everyone (all) into the concept, rather than singling out the Jews. "All who rely on works..." And this brings us back to the idea he started in Chapter one, where he tells them that they have followed a "different gospel." They had turned away from the gospel of grace through faith, and once again were chasing a false gospel built on works or acts of obedience.

No one is justified by before God by the law. No one. The righteous live by faith, and the law is not of faith. I know this one confuses a lot of people. Either we want to take it to one extreme or the other. Either we want Christianity to be about obedience to an external set of regulations, or we want to make it about a complete freedom from such regulations (See Romans 6:1,2) The truth lies in between, where we obey the ideals of the law because of our love for God, rather than being bound by the law or ignoring any law.

Jesus certainly did not live a life that was free from the law, nor did he preach such a life for his followers. His preacher actually centered on an idea much more difficult and much more demanding. It was that idea that we love God, and surrender fully to him out of our gratitude and love for him. To quote Matt Chandler's thought, "Heaven is not a place for people who do not want to go to hell, it is a place for those who love God." Now, because of Jesus, the promise made to Abraham can be realized. Now, we can live by the Spirit of God and not by the law. But that Spirit will never take us to a place where we violate God's law, because the Spirit is from God and is God!

Monday Music

I found this after writing the post on Galatians 2:15. I had not really listened to Tenth Avenue North before, but it really drives home the message of grace and our struggles to be free. Lyrics are on the video, hope you enjoy.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Give me what I am due

Galatians 3:7-9

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying,“In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is a tough one, especially if you are a Jew, but also if you tend toward legalism. The "sons" of Abraham were thought to be the Jews, or those who obeyed the Jewish law. But God knew, and in the Scripture he revealed, that the true sons of Abraham would be sons by faith.

The Scripture revealed that in Abraham, ALL the nations would be blessed. And by faith, some from all nations shall be redeemed at sons of Abraham. This is a challenge for the Jew, many of whom would say that if you are going to save the gentile sinners, then leave me out. And God will do just that.

But there are those among the gentiles who act just like the Jews, thinking that they now own the birthright, and God owes them a place in heaven. Same kind of thinking that the Jews held to. (See definition of irony).

Abraham trusted God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The Jews and legalists trusted themselves and their understanding of righteousness. But that is kind of like trusting a fraying rope to get you up a mountain. When it breaks, you have no one to blame but yourself.

On materialism

Anything by Platt or Piper is usually worth listening to. This sure is.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I still haven't found what I'm looking for...

Galatians 3:1-6

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

The Galatians had been had! Someone had gotten to them, had bewitched them. They had reverted back to old habits of seeking justification by their own efforts. They had bewitched themselves.

They had been given the Spirit. It came not through their own efforts to gain favor with God, but by grace through faith. But old habits die hard. Surely this faith thing is not enough. Surely I have to be better, try harder, live cleaner. So I take the reigns again, and fail. As opposed to letting God lead and succeed. Not that I necessarily succeed in the ways that I desire, but I do succeed in pleasing and worshiping Him as He desires.

To take back the reigns is to fail. To believe, to trust in God, that is where righteousness is found. And shouldn't that be what we are looking for?

Friday, January 4, 2013

What if...

Galatians 2:17-21

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

What if we are found to be sinners? What does that say about Christ? Does that make him a sinner as well, or the servant of sinners? Answer: No.

If I choose to return to sin, it is only I who am to blame. I am the law-breaker, not Christ. It was through God's ultimate law that I died to the legalities of living by a set of rules. I gave up that life in order to fully serve God. I have died to myself, for and with Christ. I no longer live in this flesh, but Christ lives in me. I live by faith now, and this faith does not nullify the grace God has show to me. The very faith I have serves to magnify that grace, because that faith comes through His grace. For if I could achieve righteousness through any means of my own, then Christ has died in vain.

And Christ did not die in vain.

What if we heard messages like this in the church today, instead of the feel good, make much of us sermons that most preach? What if we made much of God and what He has done, instead of ourselves and what we must do? What if we heard messages that pressed us hard to be crucified with Christ, and what it means to count the cost of discipleship, instead of hearing how much God wants to bless us? What if we heard more about what it means to live by faith, and that it might cost us everything? What if we heard messages about the glory and grace of God, not coming because we have earned it through some action of effort. What if we preached more about finding our joy in God and not in circumstance or gifts?

Well, then maybe our preaching might be more like Jesus and Paul's.

And maybe we would be more like the disciples who gave their lives for their Savior.

Oh! No wonder we don't preach like that.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Treasure Hidden...

Galatians 2:15-16

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Paul starts out by referencing his birthright, that of a Jew, one of God's chosen race. The Jews sinned as did the Gentiles, they just did it under a measure of grace, as God's chosen children. I believe that Paul wants all to understand that it was grace, and not their ability to live a sinless live that set the Jews apart. I believe this because he goes on to say that he knows that "a person is not justified by works of the law."

This is such a radical departure from his previous beliefs, but I believe that Paul now holds to this for 2 very important reasons. First, because God has opened his eyes to a very inconvenient truth (apologies to Mr. Gore). Without God removing the blinders, how can a man every honestly surrender his sincerely held misconceptions, especially when to change your thoughts comes at such a high cost? Second, having had his blinders removed, he could see the senselessness of what he had held to and the beauty of the truth. Can a man really live a sinless life and have the Almighty God of the universe look upon him with approval? Can a man hope to achieve salvation by following a set of rules? Is this the message of the Old Testament, the foundation for the gospel message? Or, was the Old Testament preparing us for the reality of Christ, and that by faith in him we might be justified?

This is the message of the gospel, and it is found somewhat hidden for some in the cracks of every passage. But I see it hiding in there, and I pray that you might see it to. Your rules, they do not save you. Try as you might to please God, you can't unless you first come to him in faith. You can't, unless you first see him as beautiful and love him. (Luke 19:20-27 comes to mind)

We are children of God by birth, and not Gentile sinners! Praise God!