Last week I introduced Galatians to the folks that I met with in my campground ministry. This week we move further into the issue that Paul is facing as he writes to the churches he founded in the Galatian region.
In the first five verses, the main issue seemed to be the fact that someone is questioning Paul’s authority and apostleship. In verses 6-10, He takes up another aspect of the issue and, most likely to Paul, a more important one.
Paul states that he is amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him…for a different gospel. Someone or some group has traveled to these churches that Paul founded and loved. They are preaching some sort of gospel to them. There’s just one problem. It’s a different gospel than the one Paul preached. Something is different about it. It is close to the gospel that Paul preached, yet just different enough to not be the real thing. Paul is shocked that they are falling for it. He can’t believe it. He is in shock. And he is not going to just passively let it go. He is going to fight for the truth.
Paul also considers abandoning the gospel he preaches with deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ. This should probably give us a clue about the issue. Paul considers abandoning the true gospel to be abandoning God and Christ. Being one who persecuted those that followed the gospel before his conversion, Paul loves this gospel message that comes directly from the Lord. Quitting it is equivalent to quitting God.
Paul also gives us a hint at what the problem with this gospel is. The Galatian Christians have been called…by the grace of Christ. Paul already seems to be indicating that grace is not at the heart of this gospel that is being preached and taught. He is already laying down the direction he is going.
Paul even goes so far as to say that this gospel is really not another gospel. It is one that is disturbing the Galatians and Paul is upset about it. The people he loves are being affected by these people who want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Paul ups the ante on these false teacher as we look further at the scripture. He says that if anyone preaches a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you then they should be accursed. This is strong wording from Paul. The Greek word is anathema, which means to be cut off. So, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s him or an angel, if a different gospel is preached then they should be separated completely from the Lord. It’s not enough that Paul says it once, but he says it again for emphasis. Paul is giving us a strong picture of how he really feels about what is going on in Galatia.
Paul finalizes in verse 1o what the motivation of these men is. He asks if he is seeking the favor of man, or of God? Is he striving to please men? Paul strongly denies this. He says that if he was doing so then he would not be a bond-servant of Christ. His motivation is to please Christ.
Paul indicates that these enemies and false teachers are really trying to please man rather than God. That is the heart of what Paul is telling the Galatians. He is saying that if you abandon the gospel you are abandoning God in an attempt to please man. Paul gives them and us a strong warning to not give up what we believe for something that will cause us ruin.
I was had a couple of conversations with a friend the other day. Let’s call him Bryan since that’s his name.
One of the conversations was about a time that he was out and about with his then three year old daughter. It didn’t go as smooth as he wanted. His daughter pitched a fit on him. She wouldn’t stop, so he left the store he was in after about fifteen minutes. When he got home, he severely punished her. This punishment carried so much weight that a few years later she warned her little sister of what might happen to her one day.
Another conversation Bryan and I had was one that we have quite often. We discussed God and His nature.
We talked about how while we agree that God is love, this isn’t the total picture that we get from the Bible. He is also a God of judgment and wrath and mercy and grace. All of the characteristics go into who God is.
The problem that Bryan and I see is that too many of us only focus on the love part of God. Too many of us expect God to be this warm, fuzzy feeling God who indulges our every whim and desire.
In other words, we made Him into the God of the rocking chair.
Intentionally or not, many of us picture God sitting in a rocking chair on His front porch in heaven. He sits there rocking, smiling and nodding at what we do much like we expect a grandparent to do.
Grandparents rarely find fault in anything their grandchildren do. They feed their grandchildren things their parents wouldn’t. They let them stay up later. Then they leave the parents to deal with any consequences.
I read a blog post the other day where a man ripped a well known preacher for his picture of God. After reading that post, I wondered is this guy had really read the Bible. I wasn’t sure where he was getting his view, his picture of God.
My feeling was that he did what all of us have done in our lives. He made God into his own image, instead of taking the image God gives us.
God is not a rocking chair, grandparent type of God. He is a God of love, mercy, and grace, as well as a God of judgment and wrath.
Let’s realize that God is not an indulgent God who simply wants to give us our every desire. He wants to be our greatest desire and give to us based on that.
Have you ever realized that you have created God in your own image? Have you ever looked at God as a celestial grandparent?
I’ve never had anyone request that I write about a subject. Nah, that’s not correct. My friend, Dave, has thrown out a few things that he wants me to write about. But I have never, ever had anyone make a real, live request on my blog asking me to write about something.
A reader asked me to write about grace.
I know I’ve mentioned grace before, but I don’t think I have ever written a post that was focused on grace. Here’s why.
I don’t get it.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve got it. Christ is my savior. His grace is enough for me.
I just don’t understand it.
Why do we have a God who makes these rules. The penalty for disobedience is death. Then He pays the price for our disobedience. It makes no sense.
So, I think up ways to understand it in simple, imperfect human terms. Like someone inviting another couple over. Most of the time, the invited couple will return the favor. But what if they don’t? The couple that invites will usually quit inviting them if they don’t return the favor.
But what if, instead, the couple continues to invite this couple over and over and over and over. They are never invited over to the invited couple’s house. But they don’t mind. They invite them over to eat. They provide the meal. They enjoy the fellowship. It’s all GOOD.
That’s a bit of how I picture grace. God inviting us into a relationship, where He provides the Way into the relationship. He expects no payment, because we can’t pay Him back. He doesn’t expect us to return the favor, because, honestly, how can we.
One of the best pictures is the woman caught in adultery. Thrown in front of Jesus, an answer is demanded of what to do with her since she was caught breaking the Law. Jesus doodles, tells the one who is without sin to cast the first stone, and doodles some more. When the men turn tail, Jesus tells her to go and sin no more.
Go. Freely. Sin no more.
Grace is a life where we have been freed. Out of love we respond with a life of pursuing a relationship with the One who has freed us instead of a life of sin. It is a life where we know we have no reason to be able to approach this relationship, but we can anyway because of He is the Reason.
Thanks for asking me to write this, Michelle. I haven’t even scratched the surface, but I have an eternity to live this life of grace.
Do you understand grace? Does it make sense to you?
I whiffed the other day.
Last week I wrote a post called I Need Your Help. In that post, I told everyone that I was nearing the end of my first year of this blog. I asked for everyone who read to answer three questions.
Here is what I heard from everyone. _____________
No one answered my questions. Hardly anyone read that post.
You know what? I learned something from it.
What did I learn from that?
I learned that I can write bad posts that no one will read.
I learned that the folks who read this blog will come back when I write another.
Yes, this community loves me and will forgive me writing a stinker.
It’s a picture of grace.
I love that about people.
Will I whiff again? Surely.
Will I receive grace again? I hope so.
***By the way, I ended up getting what I was looking for from the comments on another post. Another example of grace that this great community demonstrated.***
Have you ever “whiffed” at something? What did you learn from that?
I just finished reading A Game Of Thrones. It came out about sixteen years ago and has recently become a huge hit on HBO. I’m just a little late to the party.
Many of you have read the book or seen the show. I won’t have to tell you about the Starks, the Lannisters, Daenerys, Jon Snow and others.
Others may have no interest in reading this 800 page book or watching the series. That’s ok. I hope you will continue to read this review. Because there is one thing at the heart of the story that I think we all can relate to.
No, most of us cannot relate to the medieval life. We are much too far removed from it.
No, most of us cannot relate to royal politics from that time period.
No, most of us cannot relate to barbarians on the plains.
So, what can we relate to?
We can relate to what this story is ultimately all about.
This story is about the total depravity of man.
There are no good characters in this book. The best characters are still not pure and wholesome. The bad characters are definitely bad. There is no black or white. There is only black and gray.
All of these characters are in need of one thing: Grace.
They need the same thing you and I need. The need to be forgiven. They need what they cannot do for themselves.
George R.R. Martin would probably not agree with me. Maybe you don’t either. That’s ok. We still all need grace.
Just like all of the characters in A Game Of Thrones.
Have you read A Game Of Thrones? Seen the show on HBO?
I was on my way to work the other day. I had the radio station on that plays music from the 80’s, 90’s and now. After listening to some songs I didn’t recognize, I heard U2’s It’s A Beautiful Day. I rocked to it for a few minutes just before turning toward my company. I felt great and energized. There’s just one problem.
I don’t always feel that way.
I don’t always think it’s a beautiful day.
Some days, I think it’s a mundane grind.
And I don’t like it.
I think most of us are this way. We get up, do our thing, go home and do it all over again.
Life isn’t always a beautiful day to us. Life isn’t always a vacation. Life isn’t always a mountain top. Let’s not pretend it is.
Rather let’s embrace what God has given us. A job. A family. A house. A home.
But let’s also look for what He is showing us and telling us in those “mundane” things.
I live in the mountains. I get to have a mountain top experience every day. I drive into the valley to go to work. The bonus? I get to drive back looking at the mountain every day. Sure, I don’t like leaving the mountaintop. But I get to drive back to it every night. I see the good and joyful in that experience.
It’s that way in most things. Like the theme song from the Facts of Life when I was a kid, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them all and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.”
How do you face the daily grind? By looking and seeing God’s goodness and grace in the midst of it.
Do you get fed up with the daily grind? How do you combat it?
The stone was rolled away.
Death has no more victory.
Death has no more sting.
I don’t know if you have ever heard anything like this before, but I have several times in my time in church.
Someone will give a testimony about their life since becoming a follower of Christ. They will say something about how Christ is building them a mansion in heaven. They will say that they don’t deserve that and that He doesn’t have to do that. All Christ needs to do is just build them a little cabin over in the corner of Heaven. That will be good enough.
Do you know what I say to that?
The truth is that none of us deserve a mansion built for us in Heaven. We deserve nothing associated with grace. That’s what makes it grace.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that God lavishes His grace upon us.
God doesn’t just nickel and dime grace to us.
Here is how Paul describes it.
“In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.”
Did you catch all of that?
If you still can’t get the full picture, imagine it this way. Valentine’s Day is coming up. Imagine a husband giving his wife a dozen roses. He does this because he loves her and on this day wants to lavish his love on her. When she gets the roses, she says, “A dozen roses are too many. I don’t deserve this. A single rose would have been good enough.”
That doesn’t happen, does it? No. She displays them prominently. If she received them at work, she sets them so that everyone sees them. She wants everyone to know how much her husband loves her and lavished his love on her.
That’s the way it should be with us and the grace that God lavishes upon us.
Let’s display it.
Let’s show it off.
Do you have trouble accepting the grace God lavishes on you? Do you show the world how much He lavished His grace on you?
Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I don’t know how people felt 70 years ago when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Because of 9/11, I believe I can come close, but I don’t know exactly what it was like back then. I don’t know the exact feelings of terror that might have swept across our country as we faced an enemy in Japan, Germany and the other Axis powers.
I definitely don’t know what it was like to be entering the Christmas season with that type of fear looming over what we consider a season of joy.
However, Christmas gives us the proper response to that fear and all other fears and uncertainty that we face.
Christmas gives us Christ.
Christmas gives us hope.
Christmas gives us courage.
Christmas gives us grace.
Christmas give us forgiveness of our enemies, as we, who follow Him, have been forgiven.
Pearl Harbor was a time that defeat felt overwhelmingly near.
Christmas gave us what overcomes all fear and defeat in our lives.
Thank you, Lord, for giving us Christmas for every Pearl Harbor in our lives.
What Pearl Harbors in your life has Christ helped you overcome?
Do you like Westerns? I do. I’ve read more Louis L’Amour books than I can remember. I love Gunsmoke and almost any Western show that I can find from back in their heyday. I love John Wayne movies. I especially love Clint Eastwood’s Western work, from Rawhide to Unforgiven. My favorite movie of all-time is Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Another of my favorites is Hang’Em High. In it, Eastwood’s character is wrongly hanged. He does not die, but quickly becomes a marshal who captures outlaws to hang. The days when the hangings occur take on a carnival atmosphere. Justice is delivered swiftly and without mercy. Although he wants to stop once he captures the men that hanged him, Eastwood continues working for the hanging judge.
Somehow a paradox has happened. While I still love this movie, I’m not sure how I feel about the death penalty. Where I used to advocate public executions that could possibly take on the characteristics of the hangings in the movie, I do not relish the thought of anyone dying. Where I used to believe in an eye for an eye, I’m not sure what I believe anymore in regards to capital punishment. I’m not anti-death penalty, but neither am I pro-death penalty.
Much of this has come to a head over the last couple of years. I suppose that I feel an empathy toward those who commit acts that could result in the death penalty. You see, I too once was sentenced to the death penalty. I had fallen short of the glory of God and faced the wages of sin. Yet, God had mercy on me. He extended grace to me through His Son. My sin was paid for by Christ’s blood. Jesus defeated Death for me, allowing me to experience life, eternal and abundant.
So, while I won’t usually rail against the death penalty, I certainly have come to a place where I don’t demand it either. I wish those who face such a penalty here on earth enough time to have the opportunity to be presented the Gospel, receive grace and not face that same penalty after death.
How about you? Have your thoughts and ideas about the death penalty changed during your life?