It’s Personal

Read This Week: Galatians 6

But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. See what large letters I use as I write to you with my hand! – Galatians 6:1-3, 9-11 NIV

Anytime someone says, “It’s not personal,” you can be sure that it is, in fact, very personal. That statement as a whole is a myth. Everything is personal to somebody, whether it be in a marriage, friendship, in business and certainly when it comes to having a relationship with God. Consequently, the vast majority of what is undertaken or attempted in life, cannot help but be personal.

The Apostle Paul certainly had a deep, personal connection to his calling, his work and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was emotionally and spiritually invested in the mission and people, therefore, he took what he said and taught in his letters very seriously and personally. His passion and personal investment in the work of the Lord is evident in the last chapter of Galatians.

Paul usually dictated the content of his letters to a scribe but would write a short farewell. However, in Galatians 6, he decides to write the entire closing paragraph himself. He was intent on making one more stand for the true Gospel and one more reiteration of how we should live as followers of Jesus. He says in verse 9, See what large letters I use as I write to you with my hand! He wrote in bigger letters than normal for emphasis as if to say, “Don’t miss this!”

For Paul, the Christian life was serious and personal and he didn’t want us to miss some final teachings and encouragement about grace, freedom and our responsibility to each other and the world. He took it personally to warn us against the traps of temptation and the importance of avoiding religion and its oppressive teachings. He wants us to have the opposite attitude and desire of the religious and look out for one another in humility and bear each other’s burdens.

Paul didn’t want the Galatian church nor does he want us to give up or stop doing good things just because we face some challenges. He passionately tells us to take our walk with God personally while not making it about ourselves. He writes in verse 14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” From this, we see that it is far better to live in persecution for Jesus than to die in popularity without Him.

Lastly, Galatians 6 teaches that we should always take grace personally. The final thing Paul writes to the believers is for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with their spirits. He closes the letter the same way that he began it, with an emphasis on the power of God’s grace in the life of the Christian. His overall message is that a healthy, grace-filled individual depends on Christ’s life in them to be enough. It is personal, powerful and all anyone needs.

License to Love

Read This Week: Galatians 5

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:7-8, 13-14 NIV

One of the most common misunderstandings about the grace of God that we receive through salvation in Christ is that it gives individuals a license to do whatever they want. That we can do anything because we know it is covered by God’s grace and will be okay in the end.

Paul seeks to combat this negative way of thinking about grace in Galatians 5 and even says that this truth and persuasion does not come from the one who calls you but from people who are trying to knock you off course in life. People that want you to abandon true spirituality for legalism. People that want to control you.

This passage makes it clear that God’s grace is not something that supports our sin nature but instead makes us more like Christ. His grace doesn’t provide us with a license to sin, but with a license to love the way that Jesus did. It gives us the ability to bring glory to God by expressing His love in a way that we are incapable of apart from Him.

Grace also doesn’t make us free to live how we want at the expense of others. Rather, the grace received through the cross gives us the freedom to love others as God wants. He writes in verse 13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Love takes the place of the law and sin. We see in this passage that the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Grace doesn’t permit sin or provide a chance to break all rules, it allows us to love and serve. If we love people, we won’t take advantage of them, mistreat, or abuse them. If we see grace as a license to love, we won’t steal from people, lie about them, envy what they have or intentionally harm them in any way.

Love in the heart of man is God’s substitute for legalism. Even when laws are present, people still mistreat one another, but when God’s spirit takes over our hearts, we are free to love others no matter what. Grace is the license to love. We should use it freely.

All In The Family

Read This Week: Galatians 4

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. – Galatians 4:4-7

The Bible contains a familial theme. Families are the center point of so many stories throughout the Scriptures, and through a family, God established His covenant. The language of the family is also common, and there is not a more beautiful picture of this than God as our Father. It is comforting, securing and affirming to know that we are loved by our Heavenly Father, even if we don’t have an earthly one.

Paul reinforces this truth about our relationship with God in Galatians 4. He uses the analogy of adoption and states that because God’s Spirit saved us, we are adopted sons and daughters that are given absolute privileges in the family of God and equal status as heirs. This is an incredible blessing that we are given through salvation and it is a demonstration of God’s grace and true love for us.

We can imagine someone helping or even saving another person, but not going so far as to make them a part of their family. Every human being is a child of God in the sense of being His offspring and made in His image. But not every person is a child of God in the sense of this close, adoptive relationship that we enjoy through Jesus Christ. Yet, this is what God has done for us. He gives us the distinction of being his sons and daughters.

Pastor and Author, John Piper once wrote, “God does not leave us in the condition of aliens when he adopts us. He does not leave us with no feelings of acceptance and love. Rather, he pours his Spirit into our hearts to give us the experience of being embraced in the family.” 

The Lord is our Abba Father as Paul tells us in this passage. He is our Daddy who withholds nothing from His children. Through faith, and because God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship, we are all in the family of God.

Reborn Free

Read This Week: Galatians 3

So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:26-29 NIV

To be free is an innate cry of the human heart. The very idea of being born free has inspired poems, songs, movies, and passionate speeches. Every person wants to live in a world where freedom is a way of life. It is every bit the desired experience as it is a romantic thought.

Unfortunately, not everyone has been or is born free. Some have entered into situations of oppression and captivity; a life where personal and collective freedom is not realized by law. They live under societal or religious regulations that suppress liberty and restrict autonomy.

But Galatians 3 and many other passages in the Bible, teach us that no matter where we happen to come into the world, we are not born through the law, but are brought up under the law. The law does not give us life; it regulates it. It can deny or facilitate the experience of freedom, but it can’t make one free. The law does not allow us to be born free, it incites in us a longing for freedom. The law can govern and provide a valuable society for people, but it cannot bring intrinsic value to their lives.

In this chapter, Paul continues his teaching and maintains this idea by repeating over again that it is faith in Christ and not one’s adherence to a set of laws that makes them free and a recipient of God’s promises. He says, “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”

Only God can bring life, freedom, and righteousness and he did it, once and for all, through the person of Jesus Christ. And because of what He offers to us through salvation, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you can have life, experience freedom, and share in all the promises of God.

Paul writes in verses 28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” We are all children of God and free people through faith.

Be encouraged today, that in spite of your circumstances that are enslaving you or the things that make you feel like a captive, you are free. The truth of the gospel declares over your life that even if you are in prison or living in an oppressed state, you have all the freedom you need in Christ. Nothing can stop His power in your life. You are reborn free.

Grace Wins

Read This Week: Galatians 2

For through the law, I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! – Galatians 2:19-21 NIV

In 1966, a man by the name of Sonny Curtis wrote a song entitled I Fought the Law in his living room in West Texas. Curtis had never been in trouble with authorities nor had he ever been to jail. He just had an idea for a catchy tune and wrote it down. The song would eventually become world-famous and recorded by multiple legendary artists like Hank Williams Jr. and The Clash.

One of the lines in the song says, “I guess my race is run. I fought the law, and the law won.” In the first century, the Apostle Paul had his mind on running the race and the law too. But he was less interested in fighting the law as he was in making sure people knew the fulfillment of it. He wanted the church of Galatia and the world to know that when it comes to their salvation and winning the race of life, keeping the law wasn’t necessary anymore in light of God’s grace.

Paul is passionate and serious about this topic in Galatians 2. He makes it clear that keeping the Mosaic Law was good for what it was intended, but faith in Christ by his grace is all that is required now to have a relationship with God. This passage tells us that we don’t have to go back to the law anymore. We don’t have to do things or keep rules to be saved or acceptable to the Lord. Returning to the checkboxes of religion for salvation is unnecessary and denies the grace that God extended to us through Jesus.

Verse 20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This means our lives are completely interconnected with Christ through faith in His finished work on the cross. We have a new life because we believe Jesus died for us and rose again, not because we’re good at following religious orders. We don’t need the law to fulfill God’s requirements. Jesus did that for us.

The law of religion creates a space between us and God. And every time we sin or do something wrong, it is easy to see just how far we are from Him and His standard. But faith in Jesus bridges the gap that we could never cross on our own. It not only allows us complete access to God but supplies a real, lasting relationship with Him.

A new life of intimacy with God is what only grace can give. It moves us from the pressure of following and keeping the law to the peace and joy of a loving relationship. That’s what grace does for us. Grace fought the law and won. Grace wins.

Free to Live

Read This Week: Galatians 1

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. – Galatians 1:3-5 NIV

In 1974, Norio Suzuki found him. Twenty-nine years after the second world war ended, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda had been hiding out in the jungles of the Philipines; still fighting a battle that was long complete. The team dispatched to rescue Onoda and bring him back to his homeland had to convince him that he didn’t need to run, fight or be afraid anymore, the war was over. He was free.

The story of Hiroo Onoda may be hard to believe and even a little crazy, but he is not unlike many Christians. God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, but yet we continue to fight a battle that He has already won. The free and unconditional reality of God’s grace and love is too good to be true; we feel compelled to keep trying to earn them.

We hide out in the jungles of our own lives, struggling in a conflict that has been resolved, oppressed by human standards of what it takes to be free. But the gospel is clear that grace is not something that we earn. God’s love is unconditional, and salvation is a gift that can only be received by faith and responded to with love. Yet, in a similar fashion to Onoda, this truth about our freedom is still hard to accept.

In the book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul is writing to correct the teachings of a certain group. This group is telling the Christians in Galatia that they have to believe in Jesus and practice religious laws and traditions to be right with God. So he intervenes and says that people are throwing them into confusion and trying to pervert the true gospel of Christ. Paul wants them to know that the good news is free without the necessity of man’s performance. He warns them not to believe the false teaching of some that salvation and God’s acceptance comes through human effort.

True salvation is dependent on God’s grace and is free of works. Once we accept this truth through faith and allow it to penetrate our hearts, we are free to live. We begin to experience real freedom in Christ. We live in freedom from the fear of not measuring up; freedom from the fear of uncertainty; freedom from guilt and shame of the past. Freedom from the urge to perform so God and people will love us more.

God’s gift of grace makes us free from fighting a losing battle. It gives us the freedom to love. Freedom to love Jesus with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Freedom to love others as ourselves. Freedom to please the Lord and not man. Freedom to bring glory to God with the lives He alone has set us free to live.