galatians…week 15 **ADOPTION**

There is a tender story circulating across the country through all sorts of media. I first saw it last week, through a Facebook post, then last night, I heard it discussed on a cable news show. It is the story of 15-year old orphan, Davion Only, who decided to go to church to make his plea for a forever family. (Since there is a high probability that most of you have heard/read it, I’m not going to rehash all of the details, but I have hyper-linked it if you haven’t seen it elsewhere before now.)

Davion’s story is undoubtedly a heart-wrenching one. However, when I first read it last week and then when I heard it again last night, the very first statement used to introduce the story each time was “Davion Only believes that God helps those who help themselves.” Cringe. How many of you have heard that statement, regardless of the context in which it was used? “God helps those who help themselves.” Double-cringe.

Let me be clear: I so appreciate Davion’s boldness and precious, God-given desire to find a family. Since he believed those six words, he took a giant step of action–and I pray God will bless him with a family who loves him unconditionally…

BUT, oh, how my heart was grieved…

Instead of those six cringe-worthy words that depict God as some boss who only pays you if you come to work, I wish he had been told about an ever-gracious God who is the Boss who does all your work for you, and then pays you anyway because you can’t even get to work. And then comes by your house after He has finished all your work to take you out for ice cream just because He wants to hang out with you! Mercy and grace.

Those six words that have been attached to this story do NOT describe the God of the Bible. I wish Davion, as a desperate orphan, had heard Scriptural truths such as, God is the “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5) or God helps those who CANNOT help themselves (Romans 5:6) or God’s heart is already toward orphans and widows in spite of their inability to do anything about their situation (Deuteronomy 10:18, James 1:27). THAT is my Jesus.

I knew the Lord was leading me to write a blog post about this because I have been meaning to jump back into Galatians, and Davion’s story fit perfectly with our next portion of text in chapter 4. Here it is:

1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way, we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Adoption. Beautiful, is it not? Earthly adoption, of course, but infinitely more beautiful is spiritual adoption of rebellious, hateful children by a perfect Father who sacrificed His own Son, to make us His forever family.

Here we see that God knew there was nothing, absolutely NOTHING, we could do to alter our situation “under the law” (v. 5). We could NEVER help ourselves, as the pithy quote suggests. GOD had to work. GOD had to act. GOD had to help us. GOD had to adopt us. GOD had to send His Son. GOD had to die…And He did…

And because Jesus did, we are adopted as sons and daughters, no longer slaves! God has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts crying, “Abba! Father!” God is not a slave-master, waiting for you to do “your part of the deal.” THERE IS NO DEAL! There is no contract! There is ONLY GRACE! There is only a forgiving Father running towards us with open arms (Luke 15:20)!

When God brings the right parents forward for Davion, do you think they will sit down with a contract stating demands, costs, duties, and things which he must uphold?? OF COURSE NOT! He has nothing to bring to the table. He has nothing to offer. He is helpless. He was born fifteen years ago to an incarcerated mother. She has since passed away, leaving Davion as a permanent ward of the state, unless someone else rescues him. Hear me loudly–if you have not trusted Christ to save you, THAT is your spiritual condition right now! You need a rescuer! Human beings have nothing to bring, nothing to offer God. We cannot help ourselves. In fact, Scripture says we are dead (Eph 2:1). When God adopts us, God rescues us by making us alive and entering into eternal, unconditional, covenant relationship with us (Eph 2:5).

If you believe that your heavenly Father determines whether or not He adopts you, or loves you, or helps you, or accepts you, or redeems you, or saves you, or forgives you, or approves of you, or delights in you, or listens to you, or anything else, based on WHAT YOU DO OR DON’T DO rather than on WHAT JESUS HAS DONE, then you are still “under the law” (v. 5)…Jesus came and was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons….you are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter. Believe it. Receive it. Live it. Freedom.

Can I ask you to pray for a fresh revelation of God’s grace shown to you through His adoption of you when you did nothing to earn it or keep it–or even ask for it? Pray for a truer, more real understanding of the Gospel. Pray for a heart-deep knowledge of Jesus’ finished work of righteousness granted to you. Pray for a day-changing realization of God’s perfect redemption of our souls through Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. Lastly, please pray that the Holy Spirit would rip every last shred of belief in the anti-biblical statement “God helps those who help themselves” out of your precious heart–it’s simply not true.

I’ll say this again: I pray that God will bless Davion with a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching family who loves him unconditionally…not because Davion helped himself, but because God is a good Father (James 1:17), whose redemptive heart beats for adoption.

galatians…week 14 **ALL ONE**

martin-luther-king-jr

Happy birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We, as a country, duly honor him today for his life, vision, faith, work, and untimely murder. In his honor, I want to share a small part of his heart in quotes:

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

As I spent time today doing my memory work, I realized that the theme of Dr. King’s life is well-represented in the next passage of Galatians that we’ll address. Although I just wrote a blog post this past weekend, I felt as though the timing of today’s MLK holiday was perfect for the last few verses of the third chapter of Galatians:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

I know it has been a while since we started this journey through Galatians so we must at this time refresh our memories regarding the purpose for Paul’s letter. Gentile believers were being convinced by the Judaizers, that in addition to Jesus, they also needed to keep the Jewish law, in order to be really saved. That faith in Jesus was good, but wasn’t quite enough. It was a starting point, but not the whole. Paul began destroying those lies with the truth of the gospel: JESUS IS ENOUGH.

Therefore, you see in this passage that we are “justified by faith” (v. 24) and we are “sons [and daughters] of God through faith” (v. 26). There is no other way for human beings to receive justification (being made positionally right with God) except through faith in Jesus Christ, his life, death, burial, and resurrection. We are saved by believing that Jesus’ perfect righteousness has been transferred to us by no merit of our own.

Additionally, as far as the background of the letter, there was a specific instance of racism cited in 2:11-16 that Paul addressed, and most certainly was indicative of other occurrences between Jewish Christians and Gentiles as well. Paul undoubtedly had this racism in mind when he wrote the words in verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female…” In Christ Jesus, neither race, gender, age, position, religious background, nor any other differing category, is recognized to divide us or elevate one above the other.

Equality.

We see plainly here, that the redeemed heart of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beat in tandem with the heart of our great God of grace and justice.

In your life, have you allowed pride to creep in? Do you think that you are better than other people because they look, dress, act, think, or speak differently than you? Do you judge other churches for how they worship? Do you make fun of other denominations for how they do or do not express affection for God? Do you think that other people aren’t “as spiritual” as you since they haven’t experienced the same things that you have in your walk with Christ? Do you put expectations on others in order for them to be “good Christians” and write them off as “bad Christians” when they don’t meet them?

We constantly need to search our hearts for this pride “for [we] are all ONE in Christ Jesus.”

Happy Birthday, Pastor King. I look forward to meeting you in heaven.

galatians…week 13 **PURPOSES**

I am convinced that if believers would understand–and I mean really understand–the truth of the following passage of Scripture, then we would walk in true freedom and magnetic peace. It’s huge. The evidence that most Christians do not understand what we are going to discuss today, is everywhere. You can see it in Facebook statuses. You can hear it in Christian songs. You can hear it at Christian bible studies. You can hear it in Christian pulpits. And most of all, you can hear it people’s hearts as they share their stories with you. I hear it All THE TIME.

If you have been following the blog through the book of Galatians, then this information will be nothing new to you. However, I, for one, need to re-believe this as truth every day of my life. Here’s our new text for today, Galatians 3:19-22:

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

I love the questions Paul asks. He is truly a teacher at heart. A good teacher is a good student. He/she knows how to look at their material and then scrutinize over what questions a student will ask. He has just gotten done in verse 18 talking about the inheritance coming by the promise and not the law. So, he asks what he thinks his audience will wonder: “Why then do we need the law?” He simply says, “because of transgressions.” Now, according to the ESV Study Bible, there are four possible explanations that theologians/scholars give regarding Paul’s answer:

  1. to provide a sacrificial system to deal temporarily with transgressions
  2. to teach people more clearly what God requires and thereby to restrain transgressions
  3. to show that transgressions violated an explicit written law
  4. to reveal people’s sinfulness and need for a savior

All four of these are theologically true and accurate, but the last is probably at the forefront of Paul’s mind.

I want to jump right to the heart of this passage: in any of those four reasons given above, do you see “provide righteousness” or “offer forgiveness” or “give redemption” or “make dead sinners live” or “save people from their sins”? NO!! The blessed point of this passage, and more specifically v. 21, is that God never intended for the law to GIVE LIFE…because (brace yourself for really great logic here) it CAN’T!!

We get really messed up in our Christianity when we become convinced, dare I say deceived, down deep in our hearts that the law’s purpose is to give us life and God’s covenantal love. It’s NOT!! Hear me–the promise was given, because God’s perfect love and acceptance COULD NOT COME BY THE LAW but only through Christ’s righteousness. You can never earn the very thing that God always intended to be a gift of grace.

Plainly (as plainly as God taught it to me just this week), the promise and the law have different purposes and thus have different functions.

Say I had a huge pimple–and I mean the kind of pimple that has earned the title “Z-I-T”–and I asked you for the miracle zit cream that you just created (and it really, really works). But instead, that night, after you gave it to me, I looked in the mirror and said, “Huh–that’s interesting. Those wrinkles weren’t there when I was 31!…maybe I’ll use this miracle cream to get rid of them.”

Question: when I see you the next day, can I be upset or hurt or angry at you that I still have my wrinkles, even though I used your miracle zit cream?? Of course not, that wasn’t its purpose!! Even worse, I still have my Z-I-T because I failed to use the cream for its created purpose!

The purpose of the promise was to give life by faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe (v 22). The purpose of the law was to show us that we need that life because we are dead in our trespasses and sins (v 19). Mixing up the two is bondage. Bondage. Bondage.

The purpose of the law was NEVER to cleanse us from our sins. But so many of us try to make it perform that very function. We think that keeping the law (doing all the right things, not doing the wrong things) will do what it was never intended, and therefore unable, to do. Just like the miracle zit cream couldn’t erase my wrinkles, the law can’t put us in right-standing with God–it can only make us see our wrong-standing.

If you believe in your deepest heart of hearts that God is pleased with you or displeased with you based on what you do or don’t do; if you think that He changes his opinion of you according to your behavior; if you feel secure in your relationship with God only when you have been a “good” Christian, but feel like He’s mad at you if you have been “bad”; then hear me loudly and clearly, you have the purposes mixed up, devastatingly mixed up.

Receive the freeing truth of Galatians 3. Reject the binding lie of the hater of your soul.

“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (v 21) They just have different purposes.

galatians…week 12 **PROMISE**

Well, well, well…2013. Where did you come from?

I suppose I should catch you up on things around here since I have been M.I.A. (Missing-in-Action, for those of you who thought I was talking about Miami International Airport) for a few–did I say a “few”? I meant “SEVERAL”–months.

PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME–I finished Galatians in regards to committing it to memory (although I slacked on posting what I was learning on here). I completed the book at the end of November 2012, which left me with the five weeks of December for a SHORT book before I started my Scripture Memory work/plan for 2013. The Lord led me to Paul’s letter to Philemon…such a powerful little letter. I am so thankful to have those words of forgiveness and restoration memorized.

And now, I am two weeks into the beautiful book of First Peter! I am up to verse 1:11 this week. It is 105 verses and, Lord-willing, I will complete it in five months (21 weeks) and then move on to Ephesians. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers is 155 verses and will take me to the end of 2013.

So there you have it!

I am just in love with God’s Word…memorizing the very breath of God is the most fruit-bearing and fulfilling discipline I’ve ever practiced! This is the beginning of my third year in consistent and purposeful Scripture Memory and I can’t think of a better way I could’ve spent my time. Anticipating and praying that the Spirit has led you to do your own Memory Plan, here is a tool for you! It is a short booklet that was very helpful to me as I started to memorize books of the Bible in 2011. Also, if you need additional motivation and encouragement, or structure and planning, feel free to join Living Proof Ministries’ Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2013.

I pray that the truth of the last blog entry’s text, that Christ redeemed you from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for you, has really, and I mean really, begun to flesh out in your every day thoughts and actions. It really is a life-changing truth, if we let it do its perfect, freeing work in our hearts–DAILY.

If you’ll allow me to jump right back in where we left off, we continue today in Galatians 3:

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

I am going to assume that everyone reading this blog has either been in a wedding ceremony, attended a wedding ceremony, or at the very least watched one on TV or in a movie. :) So, what does the couple DO during the ceremony to “enter into covenant” (i.e. to get married)? This isn’t a trick question, I promise. They simply pledge their love and make a vow of commitment–they PROMISE.

Imagine with me for a moment: a couple you know gets married. Biblically-speaking, they enter into the covenant of marriage. They stand before their family and friends and make a promise of love and lifetime commitment. A few years pass by. Now, let’s say that you get a phone call from the wife (let’s call her “Sue”) and she tells you that her husband (we’ll call him “Bob”) has recently presented her with a list of things she must do daily, weekly, monthly, yearly in order for him to stay married to her. The moment that Sue does not do ALL that Bob’s list entails or if she doesn’t do them WELL ENOUGH, she is no longer his wife. Marriage is over. Covenant is void. Done and done.

I really hope that you would first ask Sue if she’s joking because what she has just explained to you is THE MOST RIDICULOUS and not to mention, one of the CRUELEST things that you’ve ever heard.

This is exactly the point the Apostle Paul is making here in Galatians 3. God made a promise to Abram in Genesis 12 that He would bless him and bless all the nations through him. God entered into covenant with Abram in Genesis 15, telling him that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. God instituted circumcision, the sign of the covenant, and changed Abram’s name in Genesis 17, promising the inheritance of God Himself to Abraham and his offspring.

The Law was given to Moses in Exodus 19. The Law, which came hundreds of years later, by no means, nullified the promises of God! God didn’t just come up with things all of a sudden that he wanted/needed human beings to do in order for Him to keep His promise of covenantal love! It would be even more wicked than what Bob had done to Sue in our fictional example, simply because of the eternal ramifications. That would be completely against the character of God. He is a promise-keeper (Psalm 119:140). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

So, if you are a Christian, if you have trusted Jesus’ life and death for your forgiveness of sins, then God made a promise to you. He made a promise of never-ending, perfect, all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-forgiving, all-redeeming, never-condemning, infinite, living, breathing, “I-love-you-the-most” covenantal love…

…and He WOULD NEVER come back to you and say, “Now this is what you need to do to keep it…” NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

“For if the inheritance [God Himself] comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise, BUT GOD gave it to (insert your name) BY A PROMISE!!” (3:18)

galatians…week 11 **ALL**

Happy middle-of-the-summer! I hope you are loving the book of Galatians as we go through it several verses at a time! I really wish that we could discuss these Scriptures together in real life. I wish that I could hear how God encourages you, challenges you, and reveals more of Himself to you through His book–that’s what it’s all about, after all!

I am teaching through Philippians this summer with a group of college girls and my greatest joy, besides the Word itself, is seeing and hearing about what God is teaching them. I wish I could experience the same with you…I pray for each individual reader every time I publish a new post. Know you have been prayed for.

Let’s jump right into the text: Galatians 3:10-14.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

There is one tiny 3-letter word in verse 11 that should absolutely bring every religious person to their knees: ALL. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 here and tells his readers, “if you rely on the law to save you, you have to do it ALL, or you are cursed. Period.” All. ALL. ALL.

Question: have you kept, are you keeping, can you keep ALL of the law? My guess is you answered with a resounding “no.”

Here’s another question: have you ever or are you currently relying on some part (even a tiny one) of the law to save you? Again, I would guess you would answer, “Nope.”

Think on this for a moment: does God’s approval, acceptance, love for you change based on what you do or don’t do? If you have read your Bible every day, had some great times of prayer, shared your faith, been pretty obedient, held your tongue, resisted outbursts of anger, been active in your ministry, been a so-called “good Christian”, is God more pleased with you? If you haven’t read your Bible, or spent time in prayer, or shared your faith, or been obedient, if you haven’t acted kindly, if you called out of your church involvement, if you’ve been a “bad Christian”, do you feel like God is now less pleased with you?

If that is you–you go through the mental and spiritual anguish of good Christian/bad Christian–then you are relying on works of the law (v. 10). Hear me loud and clear: if you rely at all on what you do or don’t do to gain right standing with the Lord, then you must keep the whole law perfectly in order to acquire eternal life by it (v. 12)!

I love Paul’s dogmatic claim in verse 11: Now it is EVIDENT that no one is justified before God by the law. So he has just quoted Deut. 27:26 about being cursed if one doesn’t keep the whole law, but then he follows it right away with an emphatic, “But of course, that CAN’T BE DONE!”

And that is why “the righteous shall live by faith,” another Old Testament quote from Habakkuk 2:4.

And why are we freed from the law to live eternally by faith? Because Christ became our curse for us.

Verse 13 is one of my all-time faves: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. This is what Martin Luther called “The Great Exchange”–Jesus becomes a curse, we become redeemed. Glorious.

If you are a redeemed believer in Jesus Christ, then He has become the curse for you, and has given you the blessing. He has fulfilled the law of works and given you the law of grace. He has halted your insufficient efforts and granted you His worthy completion. He has taken away your filthy sin, and given you His perfect righteousness.

When the weight and magnitude of those simple, yet profound, biblical truths seep deep down into your heart, then you will KNOW that “It. Is. Finished.”

Stop working.

Stop earning.

Stop trying.

Christ already became that curse FOR YOU.

Freedom.

galatians…week 10 **THE GOSPEL**

The picture of the Gageman is there simply for your enjoyment because he is the cutest thing…and I just like to show him off. Erin Nicastro took pictures of him earlier this week, and we celebrated his three-month birthday!

Now, on to business…

Yes, I am a week behind, but last week was crazy with wedding madness times two! I continued with my personal memory work, I just didn’t get a chance to get on here and post. So, here we are: Galatians 3:7-9.

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Yup, it’s a short passage this week. My simple question to you is this: WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

If I asked you to tell me the gospel of Jesus Christ, what would you say? Would you pull out an evangelistic tract that says, “The Four Spiritual Laws” on the cover? Would you walk me down the “Romans Road”? Would you begin asking me which of The Ten Commandments I had broken?

Let me be clear: I am not being critical of any particular method of sharing the gospel. But generally speaking, I think we simply make it more difficult than it has to be.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Timothy Keller, discusses this topic in the second chapter of his book, King’s Cross, much better than I ever could. So, why reinvent the wheel? Here’s Keller:

Euangelion in Greek, which is translated as “good news” or “gospel,” combines angelos, the word for one announcing news, and the prefix eu-, which means “joyful.” Gospel means “news that brings joy.” This word had currency when Mark [the gospel-writer] used it, but it wasn’t religious currency. It means history-making, life-shaping news, as opposed to just daily news.

For example, there is an ancient Roman inscription from about the same time as Jesus and Mark. It starts: “The beginning of the gospel of Caesar Augustus.” It’s the story of the birth and coronation of the Roman emperor. A gospel was news of some event that changed things in a meaningful way. It could be an ascension to the throne, or it could be a victory. When Greece was invaded by Persia and the Greeks won the great battles of Marathon and Solnus, they sent heralds (or evangelists) who proclaimed the good news to the cities: “We have fought for you, we have won, and now you’re no longer slaves; you’re free.” A gospel is an announcement of something that has happened in history, something that’s been done for you that changes your status forever.

Right there you can see the difference between Christianity and all other religions, including no religion. The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, “This is what you have to do in order to connect to God forever; this is how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.” But the gospel says, “This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.” Christianity is completely different. It’s joyful news.

According to Galatians 3:8, what did the Scripture preach to Abraham? The gospel. And what was that fairly simple gospel? That in him, all the nations would be blessed. If I may put it quite simply and plainly, the gospel of Jesus is the good news that through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, WE ARE BLESSED.

In his book, GOSPEL, one of my favorite podcast pastors, J.D. Greear, says this:

Have you ever heard that statement (attributed to Francis of Assisi), “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words”? How do you explain the gospel without using words? That’s like saying, “Tell me your phone number. If necessary, use digits.” Your phone number is digits. The gospel is the words announcing what Christ has done.

I want to close with a few more words from Keller:

How do you feel when you’re given good advice on how to live? Someone says, “Here’s the love you ought to have, or the integrity you ought to have,” and maybe they illustrate high moral standards by telling a story of some great hero. But when you hear it, how does it make you feel? Inspired, sure. But do you feel the way the listeners who heard those heralds felt when the victory was announced? Do you feel your burdens have fallen off? Do you feel as if something great has been done for you and you’re not a slave anymore? Of course you don’t. It weighs you down: This is how I have to live. It’s not a gospel. The gospel is that God connects to you not on the basis of what you’ve done (or haven’t done) but on the basis of what Jesus has done, in history, for you. And that makes it absolutely different from every other religion or philosophy.

I believe Jesus preached the gospel boldly and clearly from the cross as He screamed, “It is finished!” The Victor announcing His victory…to all mankind.

galatians…week 9 **THE CROSS**

We are one-third of the way through Galatians!! Two chapters down, four to go! There is something extraordinary that happens when you read a letter/book of Scripture in its entirety. You get the complete feel of the letter from start to finish. I am not yet reciting the whole book, but the same continuity shows itself even between two chapters.

The Bible was not written with chapters or verses in its original state. These divisions came first by way of chapters when Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury, established them in 1227 A.D. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first edition to use his chapter pattern.

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in 1448 A.D. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555 A.D. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since then, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

Don’t worry–I have a very good reason for going down that rabbit trail…

To be honest with you, I have already memorized chapter three. I memorized it last summer during a bible study through Galatians with some of my favorite people in the world. I challenged them to memorize it and consequently I had to be willing to do the same. Since God graciously allowed me to retain it, I have actually started chapter four in my memory work this week but will continue to blog through portions of the text until we complete the book together!

I say all that because I need you to know that I have been reciting Galatians 3 by itself for almost a year now. Just this past week, I connected chapter two and chapter three AND THE SCRIPTURES CAME ALIVE!! Since there was no break when Paul originally wrote it, it makes sense that his thought continues to flow into the next chapter.

I am going to include 2:21 along with 3:1-6:

21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Please remember the context of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches: he is exhorting them to again embrace the truth that Jesus is enough! He is reminding them of their freedom in Christ Jesus through the grace that He offers through His bloodshed on the cross.

The last verse in chapter two, noted above, is Paul’s very piercing argument: If you can do it on your own, if you can earn righteousness by your own good works, if you can satisfy the wrath of God by being good enough, THEN CHRIST DIED FOR NO PURPOSE! Soak that in. The moment that you think that you can earn or lose one iota of your righteousness is the moment that you completely devalue Christ’s death. One more time–hear me: If you think your righteousness comes by being good enough or by not being quite bad enough, then you nullify the grace of God and His free gift-righteousness, and Christ died for nothing…I really don’t think I can say it enough.

Now, let’s get to how 2:21 and 3:1 blew up off the page at me this week…

Paul has some very harsh words for the Galatian believers in 3:1. Did you feel the weight of them as you read, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?! It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified!”?

I believe this is Paul’s point: “When you choose to believe that Jesus isn’t enough, when you choose to believe that keeping the Law saves you, then you nullify the grace of God and you nullify the death of Christ! BUT you saw the death of Christ with your own eyes–you saw the CRUCIFIXION of the Lord Jesus Christ–you saw Him as unrecognizably human from all the beatings and scourging–you saw them spit on Him–you saw Roman soldiers force Him to carry His own cross–you saw Him stumble and fall on the road to Calvary–you saw Him hanging on a tree–you saw Him give His mother to His best friend–you saw Him scream out forgiveness–you saw Him struggling for every single breath–you saw Him breathe His last–you saw them shove a spear in His side–you saw them take His lifeless body down from the cross. YOU SAW with your own eyes! How can you say that what YOU SAW meant NOTHING?? How can you tell me that He went through what YOU SAW for NO PURPOSE?? Have you forgotten WHAT you saw?? O foolish Galatians, REMEMBER WHAT YOU SAW!! Only when you remember will you THEN rightly understand grace again…”

Verses began to flood my mind that absolutely support Paul’s highest esteem for the crucifixion of Christ Jesus:

“…but we preach Christ crucified…” 1 Corinthians 1:23a

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3

It made such perfect sense to me…the Galatians had forgotten Christ crucified and in so doing, they forgot His grace.

That’s me.

When I lose sight of Christ and Him crucified, I begin to focus on me and what I need to do or not do for my righteousness. When I lose sight of God’s perfect love shown to me on the cross, I begin to focus on what I can do or not do to make Him love me more. When I lose focus on His sufficient grace, I begin to try to make myself acceptable in His sight. When I forget the cross, I forget the ultimate sacrifice that was made to redeem a wretch like me…and I try to redeem myself, nullifying God’s grace and Christ’s death. Oh, forbid it, Lord…

Is that you too?

I have spent the last three days focusing on the cross. I’d like to offer you the same opportunity. I’m attaching a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll in which he preaches on the cross. I invite you to take time this week to watch it and, as Paul says, “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

“Cross: God Dies” sermon