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.

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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)