Tag Archives: gospel

Hey dads…what the heck?

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul gives a long list of the physical things he endured as a follower of Christ (these things are the “suffering” spoken of in Acts 9:16); at the end of the list he writes, “I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches”. Paul is NOT talking about the buildings, or even the institution of the church- he IS talking about the people that make up the church. As I approach year 11 of vocational ministry, I understand this latter “suffering” more and more.

My heart is heavy today dealing with families in which the father has simply jettisoned his spiritual responsibility to promote and proclaim the gospel of Jesus to his family and spouse.

Last night in our Family Life Small Group we discussed the concept of biblical fatherhood. Rob Rienow said something like, “as the father goes, so goes the family; as the family goes, so goes the community, as the community goes, so goes the nation.”

As we lament and lament our current political climate and choices, maybe it’s time that we, the church (the people AND the institution) take a good, hard, honest look at what we are doing and not doing to hold fathers to the standard that God does.

To paraphrase Paul in Philippians 2- “Does Jesus matter to you? Do you find any comfort in knowing him? Are you living with the Holy Spirit? Is your heart receptive at all to God? Make my joy complete and lead your families spiritually. Because picking up the pieces of what you’ve shattered in your pursuit of self, talking with your wives as they cry and watching your kids fall into destructive patterns is getting really, really old.”


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The Freedom to Wear a White T-Shirt

Galatians 1

Galatians 2

Galatians 3

Galatians 4

Galatians 5

Galatians 6 verses 1-3:  When someone falls into sin, they do not need your judgment, your glances of disapproval, your wagging finger…Surely you can be more creative than that!  They need your mercy, your love, your forgiveness.  Likely, you’ll need those things by day’s end.  Reach out to them.  Share in their hard luck and bad times.  This is how you are the righteousness of Christ!  You are not too good for the dirty work, so stop pretending that you are!

Verses 4-5:  Take stock of who you are, both in Christ and without.  Search deep.  Be honest!  Compare yourself with Christ if you want honesty.  Comparing yourself, your love, your mercy to others will only leave you wanting.

Verse 6:  Are you living the common, participatory life?  With those you’ve taught and with those who’ve taught you?  Because that is what you;ve been called to, not separation but relationship.

Verses 7-8:  Make no mistake.  Separation breeds separation.  Do you live removed from people?  Without love?  Without mercy?  In judgment and criticism?  The harvest will be weeds.  But, if you love in participation, your harvest will be love.

Verses 9-10:  Never, ever, stop doing good.  Don’t let your guard down.  Stick to it!  You will be tempted to quit, to say, “Enough!”, to say that it is someone else’s turn…but that is not the way it works.  A good harvest requires a good worker.  A faithful worker.  A consistent worker.  So, start inward, with the believers, and work outward.  Planting and harvesting are cyclical. You are never done.

Verses 11-13:  I’m writing this in big handwriting, because I want you to understand the seriousness of what I’m telling you; I don’t want you to miss it.  The only reason people preach works is so that they will look better than you.  They lack the guts to actually live for Christ: they cannot, they REFUSE to show love, mercy, patience, kindness, grace;
all these people have is works and good-looking outward appearance.  They tithe, show up to church every week, read their Bibles, pray, lead study groups…but they are full of it.  They couldn’t keep the law if they tried, so they pick and choose.  They simply want to gain followers.  They want people to adhere to an archaic form of faith.

Verses 14-16:  The only thing that I care about, the only thing that I will boast in is Christ, his sacrifice.  Because of His work, I am dead to all of those rules.  I’m not interested in pleasing others and fitting into their mold.  It’s why I wear a white t-shirt on Sunday mornings.  Your silly rules and expectations only make me desire more freedom.  It’s not about the rules that we create and follow; it’s all about what He is doing and He, friends, is making…us…free.  All those that are free are his.

Verse 17:  The argument is old.  This is pettiness and takes us away from what we are about: love, mercy, peace.  The focus on rules only sets me down a path toward bitterness and I’ve been there.  It caused me to be separated from God: rules about what kind of music to listen to, when not to wear jeans, how long my hair could be.  The scars from those rules that were imposed on me run deep.  Is this what we want?

Verse 18:  Jesus gives you freedom.  You.  Me.  Us.  Them.  Embrace it.

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On Slaves and Sons

In Galatians 4, Paul builds on the closing imagery from the previous chapter, namely, “What does it mean to be in the family of God?”

Verses 1-3: Paul says that as long as the person is a minor (child from chapter 3), he/she is bound by the rule of law.  Essentially, it is the spiritually immature that are addicted to the law, that must follow up.  Here, God is loving, yet stern.  Minors, writes Paul, are slaves to the Father.  He writes it down, they follow.  Yet…

Verses 4-7:  Here we find that something has changed.  The Son, the True Heir, has come down, and his message is (you guessed it!!) Grace and Peace.  The Law, which captured us, has been overturned.  We are free!  How do we know this?  Because the Spirit testifies to the freedom, yes, we shout “Father” but it is “Papa.”  It is because we can approach him in this way that we know that we truly are in relationship with Him.  It is this Spirit, this inner testifying that is the proof of inheritance.

Verses 8-11:  Before their participation in this inheritance, their slave-master was false gods.  So, why return?  Why, having been enslaved and now freed…why would you want to return?  And, by observing tradition and law, that’s all you do: return to slavery.  Paul fears that the Gospel preached to them “has gone up in a puff of smoke.”

Verses 12-16:  Back to the matter at hand: the divide between Jew and Gentile.  The key to love, the love of one that has inherited it all, is humility, is sacrifice.  Sensitivity, kindness.  It’s how Paul was treated when he arrived in Galatia, sick.  They loved him and welcomed him.  And now, he is their enemy for no reason beyond expecting them to love!

Verse 17:  They are falling into this trap because of the false teachers, the liars about God from chapter 1, those stuck in tradition in chapter 2, and those enslaved by law from chapter 3.  They want to bind you back up because then, and only then, do we again need to depend on people for freedom.  If you’ll remember from chapter 1, Paul was bound by no man, he did not care what they thought of him.  He lived for the approval of God, rather than the applause of man!  Living by the rules of man only makes sinful man feel important.

Verses 18-20:  Paul says that “doing good” is excellent, but they should be pursuing the righteousness of Christ always, not just when Paul is rumored to be heading their way.  He tells them that he is not only burdened by them, but that he wishes he were there in person, so that he could really communicate his anger.

Verses 21-31: Here, Paul essentially asks, “How is that adherence to the Law working out for you?”  Going back to the Old Testament (which drives the liberal textual critics mad, no doubt), Paul points to two sons of Abram: Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishmael was of man’s “connivance”, and is now imaged by those bound by tradition and law.  These are coming from people enslaved, but think they are free.  They are merely creating more slaves.  Isaac, however, was of God; a child of God from a barren woman.  Why?  Because God PROMISED it to Abram and Sarai…sort of like an inheritance!  This is the kind of things giving to sons and daughters, those that are borne of freedom.  The believers in Galatia were free.  And freedom has a life of its own.

For your consideration:

  • Are there times in your walk with God that feel more like a slave than a son or daughter?  What do those times look like?
  • Are you aware of the false gospels that people are trying to enslave you under?
  • What might living in the promise of freedom look like?

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Grace, Tradition and now…Law.

The book of Galatians was written to a church that was steeped in conflict.  The conflict was between the Jewish Christians and the new(-er) Gentile believers.  The Gentiles had come to Christ and the old school believers marginalized these new believers by talking about their traditions, and by trying to get the Gentiles to not only adhere to the outdated rituals, but also, by attempting to live in separation from them.  The former was addressed in chapter 1 and the latter in chapter 2.  In chapter 3, we learn about the real issue in the Galatian church…a trust in one’s own righteousness that comes from being obedient to the law.

Verses 1: Paul attacks the Galatians head on by calling them crazy for ignoring the crucified Christ.  They cannot claim ignorance as, “His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before (them) clearly enough.”  How?  As strict Jews, it was their legalism that killed Him, plain and simple.

Verses 2-6: Paul asks two questions: HOW and  WHY did your new life begin?  The HOW is answered when Paul tells them because of God’s message (Grace and Peace!!) coming to them, and the WHY is because they could not save themselves.

Verses 7-12: Essentially, if the Jews were caught off guard by the Gentile acceptance into the Kingdom of God, it’s because they’ve ignore God’s Word.  They are in, but by faith in Christ, not adherence to the Law.  It’s not that the Law is not important; it is.  “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the Law.”  This catches every single person that has ever existed…Jew and Gentile alike.  It’s not just the Gentiles that need Grace and Peace because of their flagrant violation of God’s Word; it’s also the Jew that needs Grace and Peace.  They are not only violators of the Law, but they are also guilty of attempting to earn salvation apart from the God of Grace and Peace and Paul is intent on calling them on it.  Once you start walking down the paht of rules and tradition and use them as your baseline…you can never get away from it apart from Grace and Peace.

Verses 13-14: Because the Law leads to death, because we could never pay for the violation, because the law ends on despair…how could we be saved?  Christ!  Jesus took on every bit of that curse.  He took on that whole life, which was really death and in the depths and pit of despair caused by it, dissolved it by perfecting the Law.  By adhering to it perfectly because of who he was in God- His Son, more than just a symbol of perfection, but Perfect Obedience Himself.

Verses 15-22: Paul explains that a legal document may not be change by anyone but the writer.  God promised a Gospel of Grace and Peace through Jesus, and the Jewish believers are trying to add to it.  If that is not foolish enough, the attempted addendum is counter to the legal document itself!  The Law had a purpose; it was designed to help the people remain true to God by sharing with them His rules-after all…He can make these rules because HE delivered them from Egypt.  It is not the Law itself as written by God that was bad, it was the attempted end-run around grace!  Grace cannot be overrun by the Law!  If it could, there would be perfection according to it by everyone.

Verses 23-27: The Law as written was, again, meant to guide the people as they waited for the Law-Giver to come!  It served to keep the people from distraction, from danger.  But now, they’ve grown into grace (or so we think).  Grace is here!  Peace with God is possible!  You are ready to fully embrace the life that the legal document says that you have.

Verses 28-29: The Gentiles are in.  We are all God’s family, in relationship with Christ and with one another.

Questions:

  • To which do you gravitate: law or grace?  Why?
  • When we are asked about our relationship with God, why do we default to that amount of Bible we read or the number of times we pray?
  • How might we add to the legal document of grace and peace?

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Grace and Tradition, part 2

Picking up from yesterday…Galatians 2:

Verses 1-5: 14 years had passed since Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21-24), so Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem to report in.  While there, a few things happened: they preached the same message of grace and peace, and, some “pretending to be Christians” (see 1:6-9) snuck in.  Wow.  I am blown away by that last “happening”.  In chapter 1, Paul says that anyone preaching a gospel of law was lying about God, and now, he is saying that these same people are not even Christians!  We know that Paul is linking these two because he writes, “Their ulterior motive was to reduce us to their brand of servitude.”  Make no mistake, people that desire a return to the law…ANY law, want to put you (and I) in bondage.

Verses 6-10: Paul is not caught up in pomp and circumstance.  The people that are “considered important” within the body?  He remains unimpressed, and stated that they were so neutered by their adherence to the Law that they had nothing to add to the Gospel of grace and peace.  They then left for ministry, their task confirmed by the church leaders (the “pillars of the church”, as opposed to those “considered important).

Verses 11-13: Paul shares a confrontation that he had between the Gospel of Grace and Peace and the gospel of law.  In Antioch, all was well initially between Peter and Paul, until “the conservative group” (those pretending to be Christians? Proclaimers of lies about God?) showed up.  When they did, Peter acted like the Gentiles did not exist, and had nothing to do with them.  What’s more, even the other Jews joined Peter, including Barnabas in “this charade”!

Verses 14-16: Paul, apparently not in a “Matthew 18” kind of mood, (the one who does not “speak strongly to manipulate crowds, or curry favor with God, or get popular applause”-see chapter 1:10) went to Peter in front of the whole crowd and called him on it.  In essence, Paul tells Peter that the old rules just don’t apply anymore, and that it is the height of hypocrisy to act like they do…especially just to impress Peters’ “old Jerusalem cronies.”  Paul reminds Peter that the Jews had the best system of rules ever devised, and that they were, and are, utterly worthless.

Verses 17-18: Paul continues this public assault by telling Peter (and now everyone) that no one is perfect.  If perfection is not automatic through Christ…is Jesus causing them to sin?  No!  If Paul was simply “trying to be good”, the entire concept of the Gospel of Grace and Peace is a joke , a failure.  So, should we revert to the law?  The law that we know brings death?

Verses 19-21: Paul busted his hump trying to keep the law, even resorting to the punishment of those that did not “keep up.”  Because that’s what happens when the law reigns supreme, especially a law impossible to keep.  So, Paul quit trying.  He died.  That’s was the Damascus experience really was.  The death of Saul and the birth of Paul.  He died and became a new creature, the scales were removed and, like Jesus, he became fully alive.  And, it’s not about Paul!  He is no longer interested in appearing righteous or looking good.  Why?  He is dead.  Christ lives in him.  Ultimately, the return to rules = death, an unnecessary death of Christ Himself.

For discussion:

  • Is the true Gospel, the One of Grace and Peace being preached, discussed and proclaimed in your church?  In your youth ministry?  In your conversations with people?
  • If God is not impressed with appearance, why do we try so hard to “adjust our suit of figs” (thanks to Derek Webb!!)?
  • Do we confront people that proclaim a false gospel?
  • Once we participate in Grace and Peace, why do we seek to return to the law?
  • How have you died in Christ?

 

 

 

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