Archive for March, 2011

March 31.11 ethot

Galatians 5:25 (16-26) “If you live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples at His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

This sermon or lesson was delivered to the twelve very early in His ministry on earth. He was tired and had gone up the hill to rest from the crowds. But His disciples came after Him looking for more. So He explained to them, in that message what the citizen of the kingdom of heaven was supposed to look like and act. As he was finishing the lesson He made a very strong statement, “Enter through the narrow gate” Matthew 7:13 –27.

Entering through that narrow gate lead to a narrow way or path. The gate represents the decision a person makes to accept Christ as their one-and-only Savior. In the same way “live by the Spirit” means the step I take to become a new person in Christ with a new life.

Once I go through the gate I’m on this narrow path and I have this sense that I need to stay on that path for my own safety while still here on earth. But, I’m not alone on that path; the Holy Spirit is with me. I got through the gate with the Holy Spirit so I might as well stay with the Spirit on this narrow way.

Alertness is not just to danger. It involves paying attention to opportunities God presents for real change, right now.

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March 30.11 ethot

Galatians 5:23 (16-26) “against such things there is no law.

I have been arguing that Paul has been talking about how some were trying to introduce the Law as part of the salvation process. And, that there is no process, just faith. I have also tried to point out that the Law still has a function in the life of any believer as a guide to right behavior.

Whether it’s the summary of the Law in the Ten or the Two it still has value. But here Paul points out that if we can exemplify the character of Christ we will need the law to guide us, 5:22-23, 25. This is a big if and that is why we have the Holy Spirit residing in each of us, He is our guide, 5:18.

We can, at any given moment, be exactly like Christ was when He was here (5:22-23) if we would just stop living according to our old desires (5:19-21) and start following the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, 5:16.

Decisiveness involves making a commitment now to insure success later.

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March 29.11 ethot

Galatians 5:13 (1-15) “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

With these words Paul presents to us the limitation of our freedom from having to or needing to earn our salvation. That freedom we have from trying to earn our salvation, whether by Jewish Law or any other system, can’t be carried over into our day-to-day experience.

Then Paul reveals what our freedom now is in the Law, that the other purpose of the Law was and should always be, to keep us from hurting each other, by loving each other. Imagine how much damage we would do to each other if we spent all our time being proactive about helping each other.

Imagine that then you wouldn’t have to worry about yourself because there would be others caring for you. Imagine that all the resources you have were given to you so that you could use them to help others in need. But here’s the question, why do we have to imagine?

Alertness is not just to danger. It involves paying attention to opportunities God presents for real change, right now.

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March 28.11 ethot

Galatians 4:24 (20-31) “This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.

It is much easier to understand a portion of scripture as an allegory (the symbolic expression of a deeper meaning) when we’re told that’s what it is.

This helps us keep in mind that Paul here is not talking about social or political situations. He is trying to get the Galatians (and us) to remember that our salvation sits on a promise, and is not something we have to or can earn, 4:23, 28.

We know that Hagar’s children are today’s Arabs, but that is not what Paul is talking about. Today everyone that refuses to follow Jesus becomes a child of Hagar, a child of the flesh (whether they are Jew, gentile [me] or Arab), 4:24 & 25, 29. In contrast, those who accept Jesus’ offer become Sarah’s children, the children of promise (whether they are Jew, gentile [you] or Arab), 4:26-28.

So, in v. 4:30 when Paul says, “cast out the bondwoman and her son” he’s talking about the use of the Law as a means of salvation, whether totally or partially. Remember that the best the Law could do, in reference to saving, is condemn us, 3:10.

Discernment involves discovering the difference between the truth and a lie.

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March 25.11 ethot

Galatians 4:20 (8-20) “but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Paul was perplexed with them mainly because they had so easily been lead away from the truths they had so eagerly embraced when He was there. The strangers that showed up after he left had convinced them to go back to observing the ritual feast days of the Law as part of a salvation process. We don’t have to go to church Sundays and Wednesdays to be saved (4:9), just to grow up.

Paul is also confused because, while with them, he had apparently gotten really sick and they went way out of their way to take care of him. Maybe he thought that their relationship was such that they wouldn’t let just anyone contradict him. It is kind of strange how even today we’re so eager to believe almost any lie about our trusted friends.

But these guys came to the church acting all authoritative and claiming to have the latest word of God for their poor souls. Listen, the Bible is not as complicated and mysterious as some would have us believe. There are no higher-class believers that truth has been revealed to and to no other. Remember we are all equally priests, princes and sons of God, 1 Peter 2:9.

Cautiousness involves learning to recognize and avoid those intent on destroying right relationships.

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March 24.11 ethot

Galatians 4:2 (1-11) “but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.

That date was usually the child’s 13th birthday, when they were considered an adult. They were the given adult training and their decisions were considered that of an adult. Before then he was considered a slave, but at 13 the children of the house were considered freemen.

In that culture the children of the house were treated the same as the children of the slaves of the house (seen but not heard). They all had to obey the same rules and all received the same education and protection. But when they reached a certain age they were separated and their education differed according to their position in the house.

Paul tells us that in reference to salvation the Law was that guardian until Jesus came. Now we don’t need the Law to point us to a coming salvation, He has already come. (4:1-11)

Today, we’re in that process where God is calling out His sons from the slaves to be free. Free to be the adult sons of God He always intended us to be. Is it your time? Have you started behaving like the son of a king or are you still acting like a slave?

Alertness is not just to danger. It involves paying attention to opportunities God presents for real change, right now.

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March 23.11 ethot

Galatians 3:11 (6-29) “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’

Again remember that Paul is arguing against those who had snuck into the church at Galatia after he left to re-Jewify the believers. He is arguing against a group who believe that you have to be Jewish born and follow the Law to be saved from God’s ultimate judgment (you could try to become Jewish and that might work, Matthew 23:15).

This is why Paul pulls this quote from Habbakuk 2:4 “The righteous man shall live by faith.” Even back then it was understood that the Law was not intended to save anyone. Actually Paul points out that the best the Law could do, in reference to saving, is condemn, 3:10.

Then Paul points out that according to the Scriptures (3:8), since the beginning it has always been true that faith was the only way to be sure of your salvation, the Law was not designed to give that kind of assurance. God’s promise stands no matter what else may come along in life, because a deal is a deal, 3:15.

Loyalty involves not just remembering who my God is, but helping others to remember as well.

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March 22.11 ethot

Galatians 3:3 (1-9) “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

We are a religious people. We worship ourselves, each other, games, TV, work and when we’re not worshiping a god we’re worshiping no god. I think God made us to worship and so when we’re not worshiping Him we’re worshiping something or someone else. I don’t remember who it was said that there is a God shaped hole in each of us and we’re trying to fill it with anything but Him.

Maybe this is why we are so easily attracted to rituals that make us feel like we’re doing the right thing. But Paul shows us that when Abraham believed there were no rituals to perform for his salvation, just belief, 3:6-9. It’s like belief and then simply following God’s lead is not enough for us.

But what we don’t realize is that you can’t make that which is perfect more perfect, 3:3. Salvation from that judgment to come is obtained only one way, faith, that is trusting God’s word, John 5:24. He has promised those who believe eternal salvation from judgment. After all He is God we should just trust Him to keep His word. Anything we do after that step might be great, but doesn’t make us any more or less saved.

Joyfulness involves keeping our eyes on the promise then living that out right where we are.

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March 21.11 ethot

Galatians 2:12 (11-21) “For prior to the coming of certain men from james, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself sloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.

In v. 2:9 Paul indicates that James, Peter and John had all understood that there was to be no separation between Jew and Gentile, Acts 15. But apparently, while James and John were out of the city, certain Judaizers had come in and made a big deal about there distinctiveness as Jews and got Peter to separate himself from the gentile Christians.

When I was in Ecuador, a few years back, we encountered a meal that made us all shudder. It was a special delicacy to the Ecuadorians, like turkey on Thanksgiving is to us in the U.S. But to us it was weird and we failed to be sensitive to them and showed our disgust. Although they laughed at us understandingly I felt we had offended them, culturally.

The incident that Paul is talking about is what happens when we make accomidations for culture and then forget they are merely accomodations and not law. When we make culture part of the Salvation equation we change the Gospel from a free gift of God to a type of salvation you need to earn. It is a fault we all suffer from and will continue to do so as long as we’re here.

I don’t know that there actually was a circumcision group bent on changing the Gospel or just concerned about loosing their Jewish distinctiveness. Today there are plenty of Jewish Christians who are proud of both there Jewishness and there faith in Christ alone for salvation. Culture and faith do not have to cancel each other out.

I found interesting, too, that Paul calls this group “the party of the circumsision”, yet wasn’t he of the circumsicion?

Sincerity is demonstrating, by word and action, in who we really trust.

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March 18.11 ethot

Galatians 2:4 (1-10) “But it was because of false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

I bring up this verse because I’m getting tired of listening to some churches preaching about our liberty as believers right out of the context of scripture.

In Acts chapters 9-11 we have the story of how Peter was lead to Caesarea to preach the Gospel to a gentile and then had to defend that action to the church in Jerusalem. Those Jewish believers were amazed that God had stopped requiring anyone from having to observe the Law to be considered God’s people and saved.

What this meant was that believer don’t have to obey the Old Testament Jewish Law to be saved. This would be adding to the free gift of God a requirement He had not. Culture is a powerful thing to overcome, and that is what Judaism at that time had become.

Today, believers don’t have to be concerned about the Mosaic Law and others requiring us to observe it. What we do have is a bunch of groups that did compromise and watered down Jesus’ salvation plan with works, requirements (Roman Catholics for example).

The decision to believe is the only thing that saves us, John 3:16 & 17. But after we make that decision to accept Jesus as our Savior, He does require of us certain behavior, His Law, New Testament Law, John 15:10. Failure to observe that Law is an indication, as John said, that you were never of us, 2 John 2:19.

Security involves learning to abide in God’s love by understanding and obeying His commands.

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