Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just Read Galatians

Have you ever met someone that said, "I don't want to be a Christian; the Bible is just a whole list of don'ts."  What has been your answer?  I'm pretty sure I've answered with the platitude "Christianity isn't about don'ts, it's about dos."

And in some ways it is about dos:

Do Love God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Mark 12:30
Do Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Do Believe and be saved. Romans 10:9 
Do Repent so your sins may be forgiven.  Acts 3:19 

But somehow we (or at least I) have always been able to link it back to a don't--that don't thing in your life of which you need to repent.  In some ways this is the same idea I learned a few months ago about shifting the emphasis of the Gospel message from our sin and need for a savior to the hope available in Jesus, but God keeps showing it to me over and over so here I am talking about it again.

If I see this verse out of context:
My immediate assumption is that there is some sin the Galatians are struggling with preventing them doing what is right--Loving God, loving their neighbor, or believing.  Some don't they should stop doing.  Do you know the sin they were supposed to stop?

The sin of legalism--relying on law for salvation as opposed to faith.

Some people in the church in Galatia had decided that the non-Jew Christians needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.  The people were believing it and it was starting to cause division in the church, and Paul, he was mad!

Galatians 1:6-9 "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed."

Paul spends most of Galatians explaining why...nevermind, there is lots of points in Galatians, and I was really only trying to share what I learned from Galatians 5:7.

Do you know why Paul was so mad?  Yes, they were turning away from his teaching and the teaching of the gospel, but more exactly they were turning away from their salvation coming from faith in Christ and turning to salvation in the law.  The law.

Why is that a problem?  Because it cannot save us.  Christ died and rose again so we can be free from the bonds of sin.  Why subject ourselves to a yoke that God does not intend for us?

Galatians 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."

Do you see what I see?  Paul wasn't mad at them for a don't.  Neither was he mad about a do.  He was mad that they were giving up their freedom to be perfected by the flesh.

Galatians 3:1-3: "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

It is good for me to learn and remember that God loves EVERYONE while they are yet sinners and to wait on the Holy Spirit to bring them conviction on the don'ts while I extend them God's grace, love, and mercy.  

It is harder to let go of some of the dos at times.  Clearly it cannot be about salvation "for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" Ephesians 2:8.  But still it is hard not to have that list:

All Christians...fill in the blank.

But surely we are to turn away from sin and do SOMETHING!  Well, yeah.  But again, so silly, but it is about the emphasis.  Why are we turning from the don'ts and doing the dos?  What truth are the Galatians, and us, supposed to be obeying?

Paul tells us in the two verses preceding Galatians 5:7--
"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love."

Faith working through love.  Isn't that just a beautiful phrase?  We strive to be more like Christ, to love God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind, to love our neighbor because of love.  A lot comes down to love, doesn't it?

But how?  We aren't always very loving, are we?  Or at least I'm not.  I'm selfish and needy and lazy and...enough confession for today.  Paul even answers that in Galatians.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Galatians 5:16, 22-25.

Aw.  Just read Galatians--all the way through in one sitting.  It isn't very long and God's word can penetrate so much clearly more than my muddled ramblings.  All I wanted to do was put my Scripture and a Snapshot Photo into context.  You just cannot fit all the text of Galatians on one photo, well, and not have it be pretty :)
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