Freedom!

Galatians 5 is chalk full of excellent stuff.  Freedom is the nail that Paul is hitting on the head in this particular part of the letter.  He’s already told the Galatians that they’ve lost their way.  They’ve traded in grace for works & he’s determined to set them straight.  {And I could use a little straight-setting on this very subject from time-to-time myself, so I’ll try to pay attention to Paul}

click picture for *FREE* printable

Grace is such a tough concept.  Our society is not necessarily built on grace.  Our economy is not really established on grace.  Our world, for right or wrong, tends to operate on an A+B=C mentality.  For example, put in the time+hard work=advancement at work.  Or eat right+exercise=weight loss.  Or pay attention in class+study=pass with good grades.  Or even help out at home+have a good attitude=happy parents who give you a phone.  Perhaps these are over-simplified, but I think they’re pretty accurate.  We tend to believe that if we do something + do something else we will get what we’re striving for.  A+B=C

And the converse we believe to also be true.  If I don’t do something and I don’t do something else then I will not achieve what I had wished for.  For example don’t study+don’t pay attention in class=failing the class.  Or eat like it’s December+sit on the couch & watch hours of netflix=gain weight.  This is the way we are conditioned from a very early age & it is reinforced at every turn.

But grace.  Grace throws this all to the curb.  Grace says you can fill A & B with anything you like in the A+B=C equation & the answer will always, always, always be C.  Grace covers up the A&B with the blood of Christ & results in C exclusively.

In Galatians 5, Paul talks about circumcision.  Circumcision was an outward thing that the Jews did to show that they were Jewish & adhering to the Law.  Basically, Jews were not Jews if they weren’t circumcised.  It was a requirement of the Law.  And whoever it was that Paul felt was causing the Galatians to quit running so well {vs7} was telling them that faith in Christ was not enough.  In addition, they also needed to follow the Law {be circumcised}.

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.  {vs 4}  How very often do I try to make myself right before God by the things I do?  Likely too often to count.  How often do I try to plug the right A & B in the equation to make sure that C {God’s favor & salvation} is the answer?  I ignore that A & B are grace provided by Jesus & I have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with those.  This is freedom!  Real freedom.  I am not a slave to the A & B.  The exhausting attempts to be perfect or to ensure that A & B are exactly what God is looking for are not necessary.  I can stop {we can stop} trying so darn hard. We are free!

Before we get too excited that math does not apply in God’s economy & therefore my behavior is irrelevant, Paul addresses this also.  But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love. {vs 13}  It’s like he is reading my mind.  If no matter what I do, I always {as a believer of Jesus} get grace, then why wouldn’t I do whatever I please?  I think that answer is simply because if I understand the significance & sacrifice of grace I wouldn’t ever want to live however I feel {dabbling in all kinds of sinful activities that oppose God’s will}.  And lest I don’t know what those are, Paul lays them out in verses 19-21.  The list is extensive.  And I certainly have at times plugged some of those activities into the A&B of my life’s equation.  But because of forgiveness, the grace of God remains the same and salvation & God’s favor remain my answer.  Hallelujah!

Will I ever fully get it?  I hope so.  But I must admit there are times when I strive for God’s favor, when I try to earn my salvation when I am a slave to my behavior.  Every day, though, I can try to remember that grace is God’s gift, unearned.  And the world’s equation is not relevant in the economy of God.

Bible Study Tip

Half way through our first book in the New Testament in 2017 plan.  How’s it going for you?  Painless & stirring?  Confusing & uphill?  I’ll be honest, some of Paul’s thoughts, I just don’t follow all the time.  Not even in easier-to-read translations.  I wanted to share a Bible study tip that makes this a bit less difficult.

At home I use this Bible.  The New Inductive Study Bible.  I use the ESV version, but it comes in nearly any translation. {& as one of my seminary profs said once, “the best translation? The one you’ll read!”}  Anyway, this Bible is big, awkward, heavy and not carry-around-friendly whatsoever.  But it has some great Bible studying features that I really like. It’s perfect for at-home Bible reading/study.  This Bible is a great companion as you study book-by-book.  I highly recommend it.

 a bit deeper in Galatians

Things to think about:

  1. Jesus Christ is mentioned 38 times in the book.  Mark those in your Bible & make list of what you learn about Him from Galatians.
  2. Look for times when Paul asks questions.  Words like “brothers, you” & “foolish Galatians”.  List them & see what Paul is rebuking the Galatians for specifically.
  3. The Galatians struggled with grace vs. works.  Are you living under grace or works?  Have you accepted God’s grace for your salvation but you still feel you need to earn your salvation?
  4. Read Galatians 5:16-21.  If you are living under grace, under the control of the Spirit, you will not be able to life a life habitually controlled by the flesh.  Evaluate your walk according to these verses.
  5. What do you boast in?

I hope that these 5 things will help to keep you focused when Paul’s words seem to just go on&on.  Have a great Wednesday!

 

she who used to…

I likely won’t post after every daily reading.  But yesterday as I was reading Galatians 1, something struck me & I thought I’d share.

The first chapter in this letter from Paul.  To tell you the truth, reading those first verses in the first chapter of any of Paul’s epistles is usually skim-worthy.  It tends to sound a lot like blah, blah, blah, blah.  Paul can seriously write the longest, most drawn-out sentences of anyone.  {And I know long, drawn-out, run-on sentences well.}  So sometimes when I start reading a new book by Paul, the intro is just so many words strung together that I get bored.

But not this morning.

Beginning in verse 13 :: For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.  Paul was a really bad guy with a really violent & horrible past.  He did some pretty horrendous stuff.  He was not kind.  He was not loving.

Verse 23-24 :: They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they glorified God because of me.  A guy known far & wide for his terrible treatment of others became a spreader of the Gospel message & others glorified God because of him. God took hold of him, crossed out that past {or at least wrote forgiven & free all over it} and turned Paul right way round.  Paul didn’t sit back assuming that his past disqualified him from the future God had.  He recognized the grace he’d received and freely flew to do whatever would bring God glory.

I don’t know about you…I’ve never stoned anyone to death…but there are things I’ve done & said that I’d wished I hadn’t. I have been a “she who used to…”  Sometimes I get stuck replaying the videos of those used to’s in my head.  over & over & over again.  This was a great reminder that, just like Paul, God will cross those things out or at least write grace all over them, letting them be “used to’s” in order to write new “is now’s” in my life.  Because of this grace of God I am free to drop the “used to’s”, embrace the “is now’s” and fly.  And so are you.

As we begin a new year, let’s quit getting stuck on the “she who used to…” so we can make way for all the “is now’s” He is wanting to bring to our lives for His glory.  Begin by listing that junk that you’re hanging on to.  Ask God what to do with it.  Make amends with those you’ve “stoned”.  Forgive those who have “stoned” you.  Ask God to forgive your behavior, attitude, words, whatever.  Then drop it and fly.  Because she who used to is now free.