For Father’s Day, I was given something by my kids that I had never gotten before. Tucked inside a book they gave was a Fandango gift card. That’s right, I’m going to the movies soon.
If you know me well, you can probably guess what movies I will see. I’m a bit behind right now. I plan to go see Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. If I have any left over, I plan to go see The Wolverine next month. As you can guess, I’m a bit of a superhero geek.
Most of us know the basics about Superman. He came from the planet Krypton, crashing as a baby into a field in Kansas and found by the Kent family. He was raised as Clark Kent and hid who he really was. On one hand he was stumbling, bumbling Clark Kent. On another, he was the most powerful man on the planet. Talk about identity crisis.
Iron Man is completely different. Rich beyond belief, Tony Stark is a narcissistic genius. Captured by terrorists, he is ordered to construct a weapon. Instead, he builds a suit of armor which he uses to escape. He perfects it when he gets back. Later, in a press conference, he announces to the world that he is Iron Man. Tony Stark is Iron Man. Iron Man is Tony Stark. One and the same.
Wolverine is a little trickier. His name is Logan. He is a mutant that cannot remember his past. He recalls a few fragments here and there. This is frustrating because he basically has no idea about his past or who he really is.
I think we Christians fall into these categories as well.
Too many of us seem to be like Superman. We claim an identity in Christ, but for some reason we try to hide it. We create separate identities for our church life or Christian life and the rest of our life. We hide behind the masks we create for ourselves. In some ways, this makes us live confused lives where we don’t truly know who we are.
Others of us are like Tony Stark. We are who we are. There is no separation between our life in Christ or any other part of our life. We are comfortable with who we are. We aren’t hiding who we are from anyone, much less ourselves.
Others of us seem like Wolverine. We have no idea who we are. We go through life in a state of confusion, not knowing how our lives of faith fit with the other parts of our lives. We try to connect the different parts of our lives, but don’t know how they fit together or even if they do.
Each of us have our own identities in Christ. Our challenge is to figure out who we are and live the life we are called to live in Him.
Do you know who you are in Christ?
Lately I’ve been searching for something. For a while, I could relate to what Bono used to sing: I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. There were three corner pins to my property that I could not locate.
One corner was easy to find. I knew the general spot where it was. With my father-in-law’s metal detector, we found it easily. It’s twin on the opposite side of my property was trickier, but I finally located it.
The one closest to the road in front of the first one proved to be trickier. We searched with the metal detector all around where it should be, but could not do anything. Finally, I had my kids use the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the measurements for it. After stretching some twine from one corner and another spot, we were close. Lo and behold, we found the pin. That just leaves one more and it will be no problem. I just have to measure from two corners.
There are several things that this allows Jan and me to do. We can now plant a row of trees down the border of our property. It lets us know where we can build a utility shed that we want to build. It lets me know exactly where I can truly mow for my property. It also gave me some things to think about in my spiritual life too.
I have the freedom to operate freely within my boundaries. I can plant and build almost anything I want on my property. I can put raised garden beds over there. I can build my building over there. A row of azaleas parallel to the road. Whatever my imagination can conceive, I can do it.
We believers live a life of grace, but God certainly gives us certain boundaries on how to live. We can do virtually anything we want to do within those boundaries.
I can build a beautiful life when I know what my lines are. The aforementioned azaleas. Sunflowers in my garden. Bradford pear trees? Why not. Fruit trees? Certainly. Walkways. Decks. A small outdoor pavilion. These are just some of the ideas and thoughts we have.
It’s the same with our spiritual lives. We can fill it with all sorts of beautiful options that the Lord gives us when we know what the boundaries are. Mission trips? Helping the poor? Community? You name it. You dream it. The Lord has all sorts of ways we can fill up our lives within His boundaries.
The question we have to ask ourselves is if we know what those boundaries are.
Have you found the corner pins and boundaries of your life?
As we continue our journey through Galatians, today we begin chapter 3. There are a few things that need to remember as begin:
- False teachers are spreading a “false gospel” among the Galatian churches, which Paul calls not a gospel at all.
- Paul is being discredited by these false teachers by their attacks on his authority and apostleship.
- Paul gives evidence to why his gospel and mission are not from, but from the Lord, as well as his unity with the Jerusalem apostles.
- The message of the false teachers, also called Judaizers, is that faith must be supplemented by works of the Law for you to be a Christian.
In chapter 3, Paul has had a enough and lets the Galatians have it. He has spent the first two chapters showing them what is wrong with the Judaizers message. Now, he begins questioning them as to why they are following the Judaizers. Why are they falling for this false gospel which is no gospel at all. Paul says You foolish Galatians. He tells them that they are being foolish in dropping the gospel he preached for the one the Judaizers are preaching. This is not an ear tickling message that Paul is giving. He isn’t worried about their feeling. He hits them right between the eyes with what he thinks about their current state.
Paul next comments on the state of their being by wondering Who has bewitched you? Notice the underlying message of what Paul is saying. He is stating that, in reality, the only people who are not bewitched are those who have come to know Christ. Another way for Paul to have said this is “What kind of spell are you under?” Paul is seriously wondering what kind of power do the Judaizers have over the Galatians. After all, Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. In other words, Paul preached the gospel to them which is the means to salvation.
Paul’s next questions is simple: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Paul takes them back to their time of salvation. He reminds them that with salvation the Spirit came into their lives and he wonders with them if that came through works or by faith? The obvious answer is faith, since that is the gospel Paul proclaimed.
Paul continues his anti-how to win friends and influence people message by asking them another question: Are you so foolish? For the second time, Paul calls the Galatians foolish. Paul is hammering the point home that abandoning the gospel of grace for a false gospel of works is just plain foolish.
Paul’s next question leads us to a big theological word. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Paul is bringing up sanctification here. In essence, what Paul is asking them is were you saved by faith (and notice the Spirit’s role in salvation) only to have to work for sanctification? This is an important lesson for us to realize that our faith begins with the Spirit and continues with the Spirit. We can’t do it ourselves. We have to rely on the Lord for our salvation to continue to sanctification, our becoming who are to be in Christ.
Paul wraps up this set of verses by taking the Galatians back to their lives as they came to know Christ. Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? Coming to salvation through faith in the gospel Paul preached had brought suffering into the Galatians lives. Had they suffered that only to abandon their faith? Faith and miracles had taken place in their lives. Does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you do it by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Paul is telling the Galatians to look at the evidence. Did you come to faith in Christ by the Law? Did He send the Spirit by the Law? Do miracles come through the Law? Paul is obviously saying no.
What can we take away from these verse?
1. Reality comes by faith through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Salvation comes though hearing by faith.
3. The Spirit’s presence in our lives is evidence of salvation.
4. Sanctification is result of faith, not works, as well.
5. Suffering and miracles may be part of our lives of faith.
Dale picked up Melissa’s plate and head to the trash cans. She was talking with Teresa and Tom, seeming to hit it of well with Teresa. Dale paused for a second. That was one reason why he wanted his family to stay at their home church if they chose him to be interim here. He knew that they would make a ton of friends quickly and would have to leave those friendships behind. There was no need to tear them away from their normal routine only to rip them out of this church in a short time.
Dale threw the typical church luncheon Styrofoam plate away. How many meals had he eaten off of those during his time in church? Countless, he imagined. The kids had already finished and made their way to the playground. They would soon be running and playing with other children from the church, easily making their acquaintance, dizzily spinning on the merry-go-round, laughing their way down the slide.
Dale stood back and watched for a while. He saw husbands and wives, men and women, finish their meals and head to the desert table. Pecan pies, chocolate cakes, and many he couldn’t identify right off were arranged in an order than he wasn’t sure anyone knew. If he was going to get him or Melissa anything, he knew that he had better head in that direction.
A few people came his way, complimenting him on his sermon, shaking his hand and introducing themselves. A couple told him that they were looking forward to him being there as interim, even though the vote wasn’t for another week. One little old lady even said that she didn’t know why they would just be voting on him for interim, that he should just their permanent pastor. Dale took it all in stride, shaking their hands and smiling. It would take him a while to get to know everyone if he was voted in. Even though it was unusual, he had heard of votes not going well for interims. He was leaving that int he Lord’s hands.
Fred McGinly made his way over to Dale. He had immediately liked Fred, reminding him of some of his early mentors in his ministry. He was the kind of deacon that every pastor needed, one who was there to support them, but who would be frank as well. He had had one in particular while in seminary who had helped him maneuver some landmines while attempting to pastor his first church.
“What do you think, Dale? Think you can handle this bunch?” Fred stood there smiling, knowing that this would be as easy as Dale would have it if he came on board following the vote.
“Seems like a good church, Fred. I’m sure there isn’t anything here I haven’t seen. I’m going to preach, visit and love on you folks, providing I’m here. I think that’s what you need more than anything.” Dale continued to survey the room, smiling and waving back at a few people smiling and waving and waving at him. Melissa looked up from her conversation with Teresa, her eyes saying she loved it here. Tom looked bored with the conversation. Dale couldn’t figure it out until he saw Teresa reach over and pat Tom’s hand. He hadn’t noticed it before, but it looked like the beginning stages of a relationship, so new that Tom didn’t dare leave Teresa’s side yet.
“It is a good church, even though we’ve had out struggles lately. I’ve been here as long as I can remember. Everything will swing back in the right direction. It always does. That bunch over there, though, may give you a few fits. I hope they’ll leave you alone, since you’re interiming, but who knows?” Fred kind of nodded at a handful of people who didn’t look happy, despite their conversation and laughing.
David stood up from his table and walked over to throw away his trash. He was another that Dale had immediately liked. He knew that between him and Fred that he would have plenty of support here. A couple of guys walked by, shook hands with David and Fred, introducing themselves to Dale as well.
David turned to Dale, looking at his watch.
“Are you ready?” David looked a little tense, as though what was coming would be harder on him than Dale.
“Sure, whenever you are.” Dale threw started over to the drink counter to fill up. He wanted something to sip in case his mouth got dry during the next little bit.
David spoke up loudly. ”Everyone, if you’re ready, we’ll move to the Q&A session.” With that, he brought Dale up in front of everyone.
“Well, here goes!!!” Dale thought as he turned to face everyone.
When I started kindergarten way back in the year of our Lord, 1973, they asked me what my name was. I answered as I had heard it throughout my nearly five years of life. I spoke up, almost defiantly, “Wittle Warry.” You see, I was named after my dad, Larry. Everyone gave me an adjective that I honestly thought was part of my name.
God gave Adam his name and then gave him his first job. This task was to name the animals. He called the cows, cows and the unicorns, unicorns. I wonder, sometimes, in my sillier moments if he named that first cow, Clarabelle or that first unicorn, Harry. What? You have never heard the legend of Harry, the first unicorn? I’m sorry to hear that. Brand new realities. Brand new lives. Brand new names.
Later, after He had justified reckoned Abram’s faith as righteousness, God changed Abram’s name. He called Him Abraham to reflect his new reality. He did the same for Sarai, calling her Sarah. New life. New name. A few years later, God did the same thing for Abraham’s grandson. Jacob became Israel. New reality. New life. New name.
In India, when you come to Christ you are given a new name. When you are baptized, you die to your old reality, your old life, your old name. You come out of the water, literally, as someone else.
We are who are in Christ are new creatures. All things have become new. New realities for us. New lives for us. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a new name as well.
I have a secret to tell you. Maybe you didn’t know or weren’t aware.
You have a new name. It says it right there in the Bible. Look it up.
Revelation 2:17 says that the one who overcomes has a new name.
I have a theory that I can’t prove. It may not be true. But I think it could be.
I think that this name is the one that God writes in the book of life. It’s the name we are given by God when we come to faith in Christ.
Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. Either way, we get a new name.
A new reality. A new life. A new name.
Do you look forward to hearing your new name for the first time?
Several months ago I ran into a friend of mine. Well, I didn’t exactly run into him. He owns a business and I went there one day. He was working as usual and we engaged in some talk. I bought what I was buying and then he stopped me as I was leaving. He asked me something that I didn’t expect.
He asked me if I still had a church key.
You see, he went to the church that I left almost two years ago. He was on a committee that oversees the church property. I had held some positions within the church that gave me the rights to having a church key. After we left, the key was still on my key chain. It stayed there for over a year after we left.
I gave the key to my friend. I didn’t need it any more. I had been wanting to get rid of it. I had meant to give it back. I just hadn’t. What I realized after I gave it to him was that every time I pulled my keys out to crank my truck or get into my house, I saw that key. It reminded me of what I had gone through in leaving the church. It brought up memories in my mind that I wanted to shake. I couldn’t though. Not until I got rid of that key.
That’s the way it is with a lot of things in our lives, isn’t it? We are carrying around things from our past that we don’t need to carry. Hurts. Anger. Sadness. Insert your own baggage that you are carrying. Whatever is weighing you down. You know you need to. You know that it is hurting your relationship with the Lord. It might be hurting your relationships with the people you love or others that you engage with. You want rid of it. But you hang on, putting it off, just like I did in getting rid of the key.
My friend has no idea that he helped me. He helped me get rid of a daily reminder of an extremely hurtful experience in my life. It helped me loosen my grip on an event that I want to fade. He helped me begin to let go of the past.
He helped me further down the path to moving forward.
Do you have anything in your life that you need to let go of so that you can move forward.
Several months ago, an atheist found one of my blog posts. They engaged me in some discussion and I didn’t react in the best manner I could. I didn’t react badly, but I’ve pondered since then on how I should dialogue with them. Here are some ways that I could have done a better job.
First, I wouldn’t have responded to the trolling questions and comments. You know the kind, right? Where they compare believe in God to believing in fairies or something like that.
Next, I wouldn’t even attempt to “prove” God exists. Really? Who am I to prove He exists. Plus, why do I have to prove to anyone He exists at all? I would need for them to prove to me that He doesn’t exist.
I would respect their viewpoint better. Not that I would believe it, but I would try to find out why they believe as they believe. Have they always believed the way they do? If not, what was the turning point that led them in that direction? If they were raised to believe this way, I would ask them what was the difference between us since we both believe what we were taught to believe.
I would ask them how my life would be better believing as they do. Because they do want me to change my mind. Just as I want them to change theirs. I would ask them how discarding everything that I believe in and have all of my life would make my life better.
I would love them. Not just one of those, I love you because I have to love you things. I would love them enough to share the gospel with them. To tell them that there is something else besides us. That there is hope for something beyond what we have here during our 70 to 90 years.
I didn’t react the best to the atheist that checked out my blog. Going forward I will do better.
How will you react when you encounter an atheist?
This week we wrap up chapter 2 of Galatians. Paul has defended his apostleship, the gospel and his ministry. He has visited Jerusalem and found himself in unity with the apostles. Peter has now visited Antioch and his behavior has been out of sync with the gospel so much that Barnabas and the other Jewish Christians there have followed his lead by pulling themselves away from the Gentile Christians. Paul bring his argument with Peter to a close.
Paul tells Peter in verse 15 that they are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles. That sound rather arrogant on the surface, as though Jews aren’t sinners like everyone else in the world. This really isn’t what Paul is saying. What he is saying is t hat he and Peter come from a society that followed the Law, which included the dietary customs of Judaism. Gentiles did not follow the Law, thus not having dietary restrictions at all. Thus in the context of the Law only, Gentiles were sinners and the Jews weren’t. Paul is not saying that this is true in the eyes of God.
Paul again indicates, though that he and Peter are unified in their theology. He states that knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus. Paul says that this is what he believes and what Peter believes. This is their shares faith and theology. There is no disunity in what Paul and Peter believe. He goes on to say that even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. He and Peter have trusted in Christ because the Law that they were brought up to follow cannot justify them at all.
Paul then addresses another argument from the Judaizers. If, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Paul has been accused of being a sinner by the Judaizers for living out the gospel rather than the Law. He eats with sinners. Therefore, he is making Christ to be an agent of sin. He denies this strongly. May it never be.
Instead, Paul says that after being freed from the Law though faith in Christ, he is a sinner if he goes back to it. For if I rebuild what I once destroyed, then I prove myself to be a transgressor. He is telling the Galatians that if he goes back to following the Law, then he is a sinner, not for allowing the gospel to free him from it.
In fact, Paul says that the only way to live for God is to be free from the Law. For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live to God. He is saying that there is no way to follow the Lord by trying to keep the Law. Instead you have to die to it. He says that I have been crucified in Christ, and it is not longer I who live but Christ lives in me. Paul says that he has died to his former life. Now, Christ lives within him and fuels a life of grace, not Law.
Paul now lives a different life. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. Paul now knows that living by the Law gets you nowhere. Paul does not live a life that contradicts Christ. He states that I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. In other words, if we have to back to the Law, then there was no need for Christ’s work on the cross.
What can we takeaway from this section of Galatians.
1. No matter what our background, we need the work of Christ in our lives.
2. The gospel unifies.
3. We must die to our old lives of law keeping.
4. Christ must become the fuel for us to live a life of grace.
Tom parked his car in spot behind the Seed and Feed. It was a bit out-of-the-way, but it would also give him good access to leave when he needed to. He slipped behind it and turned left toward downtown. He saw others headed in the same direction and wondered if maybe he should have parked further out. Too late now, though. He was going to get there just in the nick of time.
He approached the southern end of Main Street. This was his favorite spot to watch from every year. It wasn’t in the redeveloped part of downtown. It was still a bit rundown. He was sure that it would be renewed like the rest of the street, but for now it was just like it had been most of his life, like it was when he was a little boy.
Despite this being in the older section, there were lights everywhere. Decorations were hung everywhere. It really was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Tom could hear that the parade was starting. The cheers were starting toward North Main Street. Sirens from the firetrucks were echoing off of the buildings, making the sounds even more intense. Tom smiled at how he had dreamed of being a firemen many Christmases ago when he had first heard how exciting the sirens were to him. Somehow, along the way his dream of being a fireman did not happen. Instead, he had followed the path his uncle had taken and become and accountant.
Tom looked around and didn’t see anyone he knew. He decided to move up the street toward more of the action. It was a bit lonely watching the parade by himself. He wished that Allison had been able to stay. They had watched so many of these parades together when they were young. Being here by himself reminded him just how lonely he was these days. Allison was all he had now, and he only got to see her a couple of times each year. They had already exchanged presents when she was in a few weeks before. She was going on a cruise with some friends for Christmas. Tom planned to sleep in and watch movies.
Tom got ready to cross over an intersection when he saw Teresa. She had a camera around her neck and was snapping pictures as the firetrucks passed. She was by herself, but seemed happy as she snapped picture after picture. She was smiling and there was joy in her watching the parade that Tom hadn’t seen in anyone in a long time.
“Teresa?” Tom walked toward her as he came back toward the sidewalk. Teresa turned toward him and smiled.
“Hey Tom!!! How are you?” Teresa turned back to the street and kept taking pictures. The firetrucks had passed. City and county officials were going by in convertibles, waving at their constituents, bundled up in their heavy coats, a few with cups of coffee in their hands.
“I’m great. How are you? You sure are taking a lot of pictures.” Tom saddled into a spot beside Teresa and looked in the direction her camera was pointing.
“Oh, I usually come with my niece, but she’s sick tonight, so she’s watching it on TV. I told her I would take pictures so we could look at them together later and compare what we saw.”
“Wow, I didn’t know you had a niece. How old is she?” Tom continued to watch the parade. The Shriners were going by in their crazy little cars, driving around in their intricate patterns, putting on a show, each one wearing a fez. Tom wondered what it would be like to be a part of something where you actually got to wear a fez.
“She’s twelve going on sixteen. She belongs to my older sister Barbara. They live out on Highway 32. She usually comes to VBS in the summer.”
“Oh, ok. I’ve seen her with you a few times at church.”
“Yes. The only time she goes to church is when she spends the night with me. My sister is a single mom, and works two jobs to get by. She is usually working on Sundays. Sometimes I will drive out and get her to spend the day with me. We have a good time together.”
Tom thought about that for a minute. He had never really talked enough with Teresa to know about her family life. He realized that he really didn’t know many people at church, including the folks that were on the search team. Maybe he needed to spend some time getting to know the people in the church.
Tom continued to watch the parade in silence for a while. The floats began to go by. Every civic organization and church, it seemed, had a float. When their church’s float went by, Tom and Teresa waved at the kids they knew riding along. To their surprise, Bill Johnson was driving his truck to pull the float. He waved at them. Beside him in the truck was Fred McGinley. Tom thought it was a shame that it took Bill getting a tumor to become close to so many of them. Yet, everyone seemed to be loving him despite what he had done over the last few years.
“Here he comes, Tom, here he comes.” Teresa speaking to him snapped Tom back to the parade. Sure enough, Santa Clause was coming. Children everywhere along the street were buzzing with excitement, even the grown ones. Candy was flying everywhere and Tom caught some. He handed a piece to Teresa as she finished taking a few pictures as Santa sped away. The crowd starting moving out. Teresa turned toward Tom.
“Thanks for standing here with me, Tom. I hated the thought of watching by myself.”
“No problem. I thought the same thing. I used to watch this with my sister. I won’t be seeing her for Christmas, so this brought back a lot of memories.”
“Well, I’d better get home. I’m going to fix up a slide show to watch with my niece.” Teresa started moving north, the opposite direction Tom would be going toward his car.
“Teresa, would you like to get a cup of coffee before you go home?” Tom didn’t know where that came from. He definitely didn’t expect to say that and hadn’t given any thought to it before he said it.
Teresa looked up at him. Tom wasn’t sure what the look on her face meant. She looked as though she might run away. Tom was wishing that he hadn’t asked her. He thought that maybe he should wheel around and run to his car. Teresa finally answered him.
“Sure, Tom, I would like that.”
Tom was surprised. He almost stammered answering back.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Today I have the privilege of guest posting for my friend, Bill the Cycleguy. Bill the Cycleguy is Bill Grandi, the lead pastor at Owen Valley Christian Fellowship in Spencer, IN. Bill loves to ride his bike, but he loves the Lord more. Please go HERE and check out my post, but go back for what Bill shares on a daily basis.