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?

 

galatians…week 8 **LOVE**

Before we get into this week’s text, I need to WARN you…THESE ARE EXTREMELY FAMILIAR VERSES! So, please beware of reading through them haphazardly. I believe there is some truth to the old adage “familiarity breeds complacency.” I ask that you would pray for fresh eyes, a humble heart, and a teachable mind to learn from Scripture today, that again will be extremely familiar if you have any extended background in church.

Ironically enough, the hardest verses for me to memorize are the ones that I have known for years BUT IN A DIFFERENT VERSION! An additional word here. A different word there. So instead of just memorizing new text, I’m actually having to deprogram then reprogram data that was downloaded way too long ago. 🙂

Are you prayed up? Then dive headfirst into Galatians 2:17-21 (English Standard Version):

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

“….[the Son of God] loved me and gave Himself for me.” Can I ask you to go back and read that phrase again–out loud if possible? Did you do it? Good. Now say it again. Wasn’t that easy? Now say it again. The person next to you might think you’re a little weird, but that’s OK. Say it again. I will sit right here and wait, until you say it as many times as your precious soul needs to hear it. Please, say it just one more time.

It’s the Gospel. I know you probably think I am a broken record (or would the more relevant phrasing be “a broken iPod”?) by now. But it’s not my fault–Paul is the one writing about Jesus Christ’s Gospel of GRACE over and over and over again.

There are four different Greek words that are all translated into our single English word, love. Herein lies some of our disconnection from and devaluing of Jesus’ love for us. I tell you that I love your outfit. I tell my dog that I love him. We say that we love Chick-fil-a. But we also say that we love our parents, children, spouse, GOD…and we say that He loves us.

The four Greek words and their definitions are as follows:

  1. Storge–affection, especially of parents to offspring.” It is natural love, even in the animal world. It is why mama bears feed their cubs. A normal, healthy person does not need to be told to give storge.
  2. Philia–“friendship.” C.S. Lewis says in his book, “The Four Loves”, “Friendship is the least natural of the loves. Without eros [love] none of us would have been begotten and without affection [storge] none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without friendship.”
  3. Eros–“passionate love with desire and longing; being ‘in love’.” I have always thought eros automatically indicated sexual desire/activity/motivation. However, Lewis states that this is inaccurate: “Sexual desire, without eros, wants it [sex], the thing in itself; eros wants the Beloved.” I think his words are simply beautiful.
  4. Agape–“unconditional love.” It refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. Lewis describes it as what he believes is the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that is passionately committed to the well-being of the other. In his book, The Pilgrimage”, Paulo Coelho defines it as “the love that consumes,” i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection.

As you can guess, the word Paul uses in 2:20 is agape. Jesus loved you with a selfless, covenant love; the highest form of love that is passionately committed to your well-being; the purest love; a love that surpasses all other loves. Jesus agaped you.

That love led Him first down to earth to a wooden manger in a town called Bethlehem. Then that love led Him down the Via Dolorosa to a wooden cross on a hill called Calvary. Where, as the text says, he “gave Himself for” me and you.

“A love that consumes…” as Coehlo states. Consumes means, “to destroy, to do away with completely, annihilate.”

His love consumed my heart of stone and gave me a new heart of flesh, and He put a new spirit within me (Ezekiel 36:26). His love consumed every single drop of the judgement and wrath of God against me (2 Corinthians 5:21). His love consumes every ounce of condemnation I experience (Romans 8:1). His love consumes my sin (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:14).

Consume, Lord. I agape you.

galatians…week 7 **CONFRONTATION**

Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

When Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, the very first one was: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said, “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

When is the last time you were confronted on a sin? Whether it was by another human being or by the Holy Spirit Himself, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you WILL be able to name a specific instance, because as Luther stated, the entire life of a believer is one of repentance.

As we make our way through the letter to the churches of Galatia, we arrive at this very issue. Paul now gives us a very specific, useful, and first-hand instance of sin and confrontation between Peter (Cephas) and himself.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Here is the situation: Peter, a Jewish Christian, is no longer restricted by the Jewish law regarding kosher dietary laws. He and other Jewish Christians in the Church were having pork BBQ sandwiches for lunch with the Gentile believers. 🙂 Then, some men from the Jerusalem church came and were instructing Jewish Christians to keep the Jewish ceremonial laws. Apparently out of fear, Peter complied, separating himself. This resulted in the Gentile believers feeling like second-class Christians because they didn’t observe the laws. It in fact was “not in step with the TRUTH of the Gospel” (v. 14) which is “grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone”. This brings us back to the “Jesus Plus” discussion we had in week 2. There is no way that Paul will stand for this and as the text says, “opposed Cephas to his face” (v. 11).

I want to share some brief observations on confrontation, because again, as a believer, our lives will be those full of sin, confrontation, and repentance. (These are not set-in-stone laws, but rather wise, helpful, best-case-scenario instruction.)

  1. Face-to-face. The text is clear. Please don’t text or Facebook chat someone with a correction. You are not setting yourself or the recipient up for success. Now, in-person might not be possible, but do what you can to ensure, at the very least, voice-to-voice, i.e. phone, Skype, etc.
  2. As soon as possible. Paul saw that many others, including Barnabas, his own mentor, was being led astray because of Peter’s sin. He needed to deal with it ASAP! Likewise for us, James 1:15 says, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Sin produces death. We need to protect the sinner from further destruction as well as those whom he/she may be hurting/affecting.
  3. In love. When I say “love”, I don’t mean, “be nice and flowery and use kind words” although those are not bad things. Rather, I mean: do whatever you need to agape well. Agape love has been defined as, “the deliberate and sacrificial pursuit of the highest good for the other person.” That may mean hard words. That may mean difficult conversation. Pastor Mark Driscoll often says, “Hard words produce soft people. Soft words produce hard people.” I believe that. Godly and humble confrontation pursues the highest good of the person–it loves.
  4. Between family members. Paul confronts Peter because he is a brother in Christ. He wrote to the Corinthian church, “For what have I to do with outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). We have a responsibility to confront fellow believers, but we are not called to hold non-believers to the same standard. They do not have the Holy Spirit, therefore they do not have a regenerated heart.
  5. Based on truth not feelings. Paul confronted Peter based on the truth of the gospel–not his feelings. It is easy to get wrapped up in our own emotions, hurts, sense of justice, etc. We need to remain clear-headed and humble.
  6. Conclude with the Gospel. This, I believe, is the most important thing. One of my favorite pastors, Dr. Timothy Keller, says, “Sanctification occurs when you focus on your justification.” In verse 16, Paul preaches the gospel to Peter. Essentially, Paul tells him, “You know what, Peter–yeah, you messed up. You showed partiality. You were a hypocrite. You led others to do the same. BUT, YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER that YOU KNOW that a person is not justified by being perfect, or by keeping the whole law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. You and I have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by our obedience to the law. You are forgiven because of the grace of God. No one is justified by works of the law. The same grace that you needed on the first day you believed, is the same grace you need today and every day. The same grace that Christ offered on the first day you believed, is the same grace that He offers today and every day. His grace is sufficient for your sin. Repent, Peter.” We HAVE to finish all confrontations with HOPE and GRACE. Paul said in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead to repentance.” GRACE is the only thing that leads to lasting life-transformation.

Peter allowed his fear to cause him to sin (2:12). Peter was confronted (2:14). Peter was transformed. Grace overcame his fear. Church History tells us that he was crucified for his faith in Jesus. In fact, he was crucified upside down claiming he wasn’t worthy to die in the same manner as his Beloved Lord. No. More. Fear.

Believer, your whole life is to be one of repentance. You will sin. By the grace of God, you will be confronted. By the grace of God, you will repent. By the grace of God, you will be transformed. Hallelujah.

galatians…week 6 **GRACE**

I hope your mid-week is finding you well! Mine is busy with family things, since my little sister, Jennifer, is in town for a week before she heads to San Francisco for the summer! She is an opera singer and has a gig (yes, I just said “gig”) out there all summer. Prayers for her would be greatly appreciated!

Anyways, on to Galatians 2:6-10…

6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

This is a continuation of Paul’s argument/defense that he preached the correct gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul presented the gospel that he proclaims among the Gentiles to those who seemed influential (2:2) and he tells us that “they added nothing” to it (2:6), thereby confirming its validity. He then gives the reasons that they accepted him and “his” gospel:

  1. they saw that he had been entrusted with the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the Jews (“the circumcision”)
  2. they perceived the grace that had been given to him

I love this: Paul’s validity had NOTHING to do with him, in and of himself! The two reasons noted as to why they extended the right hand of fellowship are complete and unmistakable works of God. GOD called him and entrusted him with the gospel to the Gentiles and GOD gave more and more perceivable grace to his soul. It doesn’t say, “and James perceived that Paul was a talented speaker” or “Cephas knew of Paul’s background as a Pharisee and knew he was a qualified religious man, learned in the Scriptures” or “when they saw Paul’s written, detailed, and organized plan to reach the Gentile world” or “when they saw that he hadn’t done much sinning for the last fourteen years…” No. Praise the Lord, no.

Your calling has nothing to do with you. God has called you and entrusted you with His purpose for your life and He will give you grace upon grace upon grace to complete it.

Can I ask you something? How do you think James, Peter, and John “perceived the grace that was given” to Paul? Think about it. Have you ever encountered someone who you didn’t know and thought, “I bet that person is a Christian.”? I have. Can I suggest to you that every syllable that Paul spoke was drenched in humility and gratitude? And that every movement of his body spoke submission, yet strength? And that every facial expression he made silently proclaimed, “I was lost, but now I’m found!”?

It makes me wonder if people “perceive the grace that is given” to me, daily. When I am driving in my car, does the person driving on the highway next to me perceive that I am a wretched sinner who was bathed in grace, mercy, and love, earlier that day as I spent time with my Redeemer? When a person asks me to serve them in some way, do they perceive by my response that just that day the Savior served me with abundant grace to cover a multitude of sins? Does grace or condemnation fall on people as I speak to them? Does dignity or shame seep into people’s pores as my eyes look on them? Is my tone harsh and demeaning–a tone my Lord never takes with me? Are my words cruel, mean, or even just indifferent–again, things that never cross my Beloved’s lips. Am I proud and think myself better than others–an attitude diametrically opposed to the Son of God, who though he was in the form of God made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7).

This much I know: we will not wholeheartedly give grace until the grace that has been freely offered to us has been received by us. One of the most life-changing verses that I speak over myself every day is James 4:6a, “But He gives more grace…” So simple. It’s the Gospel. Preach it to yourself every day.