Galatians 6

“That’s not my problem.” I’ve said it, and so have you. I’ve said it when it was true, about things I needed to let go, but I’ve also said it and thought it when it wasn’t true, about burdens that were mine to bear. Maybe they didn’t appear to be mine directly, but Paul reminds us that in the household of faith, my brother or sister’s burden is mine as well, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

The temptation can be to say, “That’s not my problem,” but if what we sow is what we reap, is that the harvest we want when we stumble? Paul urges us to restore one another in gentleness, calling to repentance and walking in grace. It’s not a call to ignore sin in the household of faith. That’s the easy way out, at least at the moment. But it isn’t a call to condemn either. It’s a call to address one another with humility and gentleness, pointing one another always to the gospel of Christ. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Watch today for opportunities to do good to everyone, to point those inside and outside the household of faith to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5

How many times have you done something bad? Said something bad? Thought something bad? How do those numbers stack up against how frequently you’ve done/said/thought something good?

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:19-26, ESV

We would probably all like to think that our good outnumbers our bad by a lot. Or maybe some of us ignore the stats, focusing instead on the fact that we are saved by grace alone and not by our good works. We’re not trying to get enough “good points” to please God or to earn our status as Christians, but we can’t ignore our calling to reject the works of the flesh and strive toward the fruit of the Spirit. Just as Paul encouraged the Galatians to do, we who live by the Spirit should keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 4

One of the common objections to Christianity is that the Christian faith is just a bunch of rules to follow, a seemingly never-ending list of dos and don’ts you have to adhere to in order to “earn your keep.” To be fair, it’s understandable why some would think that way. Some of the books of the Bible feel like an ongoing list of rules to ensure that we appease God (here’s looking at you, Leviticus).

But when we zoom out and look at the big picture, what we see is actually something very different. When it comes to Christianity and, more specifically, our relationship with God, the relationship always precedes the rules. This is the point of Paul’s letter to the Galatians—that our right standing before God isn’t a result of our religious doing but the result of a relationship with God the Father made possible through faith in his Son. At no point in Paul’s letter is this more clear than in chapter 4:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Galatians 4:4-5

Those two verses are packed with rich theology that I don’t have the time or ability to fully unpack in the allotted word count for these devotionals. At any rate, the essence of Paul’s argument is this: God sent his Son so that we could become his children.

This is the good news of the gospel. In Christ, you are no longer “under the law.” You are not enslaved to religious rule-keeping. In Christ, you have been adopted into the family of God as a beloved son or daughter. Are there rules? Sure, if you want to call them that. But just like most “family rules,” they exist for our benefit and protection. We strive to obey our Heavenly Father, not to earn our place at the table, but because He’s first our Father. The relationship always precedes the rules.

Galatians 3

Paul is battling for the soul of the church in Galatia. There was a group of people called Judaizers following behind Paul, who were coming into the community of believers and telling them that what Paul had preached to them was not complete. These people believed that followers of Jesus still had to be completely obedient to The Law of Moses. Paul is writing to them to correct this falsehood. He taught the church in Galatia that it was by faith and faith alone that they could be saved and not by the law. Paul begins by appealing to their personal experiences of seeing Christ Jesus crucified and how they had suffered because they believed in him.

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:11

Then Paul shifts his argument to the Word of God. Warren Wiersbe said, “Subjective [personal] experience must be balanced with objective evidence, because experiences can change, but truth never does.” God’s Word never changes. We should always check our experiences against God’s word. Paul’s arguments make us examine how we lead people to Christ. Do we present only faith as the way to salvation? Or do expect people to do more than just have faith?

Galatians 2

As Paul continues his bold defense of the gospel in Galatians 2, he points first to the apostles’ acceptance and approval of the gospel he was preaching. In that testimony, we see that Paul’s statement about not seeking to please people didn’t mean that he treated others with contempt or rejected rightful authority, but we also see that Paul wasn’t afraid to speak up when the lives of the apostles didn’t match their words. Paul’s gospel boldness wasn’t rooted in his own ideas or moral superiority but in the reality of Galatians 2:20:

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.

Galatians 2:20, ESV

Paul lived and wrote with the courage of someone whose life was no longer his own. The prideful superiority and selfish plans that had marked his life before he met Christ were put to death. By living in the reality of the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul could preach boldly to those who did not know Christ and to those like Cephas who already knew Christ that it wasn’t works of the law that justified but faith in Jesus. Assured of the love of Christ who gave himself for us, Paul was able to live out his life by faith in the Son of God, and so can we. As we see how Galatians 2:20 tells Paul’s story, spend a few moments reflecting on how it also tells your story. What does it mean for you to be crucified with Christ? How is Christ living in you? How does the assurance of Christ’s love for you shape your love for others?

Galatians 1

There are many approaches to writing a letter. Some letters begin like any conversation, starting with general pleasantries before moving to the heart of the matter. That is–at times–Paul’s approach. We’ll read letters in the coming weeks with extended sections of thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter that precede the doctrinal and practical heart of the letter.

But all letters do not begin that way. Some relationships, some circumstances, lend themselves to a more direct approach. That is Paul’s approach in his letter to the churches of Galatia. From the opening verse, Paul is defending the authenticity of the gospel of Christ and his relationship with Christ. Paul’s rush to proclaim and defend the gospel of Christ mirrors the Galatians’ hurry to leave it behind. He writes in verse 6, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Paul isn’t mincing words or wasting time. He writes of them turning to a different gospel, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul’s mind is made up. The gospel of Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins and was raised from the dead is the only gospel worth preaching and believing. And yet, already in the first century, there were those who were eager to distort the gospel, pursuing the pleasure of men rather than the approval of God. Let’s pray today that God would give us eyes to see and ears to hear the difference between the gospel of Christ and the distortions of our day. May we be a Spirit-led people who–like Paul–know when it’s time to get to the heart of the matter.

1 Corinthians 15: 50-58

Have you ever been in a class and not quite understood what the teacher or professor was talking about? Just a blank stare. Maybe a few blinks.

This is the kind of crowd Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians. But who could blame them? Paul was talking about the impossible–resurrection, transformation, and living forever in God’s Kingdom. 

Logically this didn’t make sense to a people who valued logic.

Everything has to die. Things that die don’t come back to life, nor do they live forever. 

But creation screams resurrection and transformation. The leaves fall, but return. The grass dies, but returns. The seed dies, but the crop returns. It’s as if God has been telling us this all along–we will die, but we will return.

And we know this for certain because Jesus came, died, and came back to life. Those that follow him will as well. 

But our earthly bodies cannot enter into his Kingdom. They, like the seed or the tree, or the grass, must fade away. However, they will undergo transformation making them suitable for Kingdom life. 

And therefore, while death is very much a part of this life, it does not have victory. Death has lost its sting. While we may grieve those we love who have passed on, it is not the end. 

We are a people who go from life to life. 

Great, life-giving news such as this spurs us on to continue our faith journey, knowing our work is not in vain.

Blessings!

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

At the age of 33, I still feel young—that is, until I wake up the morning after a day of substantial (and sometimes not-so-substantial) physical activity. My back hurts after a long day of never-ending home renovations. My ribs hurt the day after a round of golf. My hip hurts after going bowling (I wish I were kidding). And from what I’ve heard, it only gets worse. With each popping joint and sore muscle, I am reminded that my body is certainly not what it once was.

But it’s also not what it one day will be.

That is Paul’s point in today’s passage. After defending the bodily resurrection of the dead (vv. 12-34), Paul then turns his attention to how the dead are raised. What kind of body will the dead be raised with? Seems like a valid question.

While we don’t know all the physical parameters of our resurrected bodies (silly Westerners, always overemphasizing the physical), we do know they will be qualitatively different than our earthly bodies. But how? Well, according to Paul they will be imperishable (v. 42)—incapable of death and decay. They will be glorious (v. 43a)—incapable of sin. They will be powerful (v. 43b)—no longer weak and fragile. They will be spiritual (v. 44)—unhindered and invincible, unlike the natural bodies we currently possess. In a word, our resurrected bodies will be perfect—specially and specifically designed for God’s good and eternal purposes.

So let every sore muscle, every popping joint, every blemish, and every scar remind you that, if you are in Christ, your resurrected body awaits you. Until that day when the perishable and mortal puts on the imperishable and immortal, remember that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you . . . So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Have you ever been in the middle of dealing with a tough season of life and in a moment of complete frustration and fatigue breathed out the words, “What’s the point?” Sometimes as a whisper of defeat and others as a groan of anger? If we’re honest, most of us have been in this place for one reason or another. We get so overwhelmed with the zoomed in details of our lives that we simply can’t see past them. We feel like we are fighting a losing battle, like we are wounded beyond repair, like there isn’t an ounce of hope left in the world, and we just can’t see the point. We hear the menacing lies of the enemy in our ear telling us that it’s all in vain. We overlook the big picture of truth. The illustrious big picture of God’s great plan for creation, redemption, and restoration.

In this passage, Paul gives a reminder of one of the most fundamental pieces of our faith, Christ’s resurrection. Without this truth, there really is no point. If this key doctrine is not full truth, every aspect of our lives as Christ followers can be set aside as foolish. We may as well give into the lies of the enemy, go on living for ourselves, and seek out whatever the world offers to ease our pain. Because it really all would be pointless. But as Paul says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” and so Paul calls the church to action. He’s not simply giving a kindly reminder to make good choices or rejoice in the miracle of the resurrection. But rather he is calling the church to get up, to turn from sin, to defend the faith.

So wherever you are in your walk, if you are steadily climbing the mountain of life in joy or you are feeling stuck as you are camped out in your zoomed in portion of the picture, you have reason to move forward. The resurrection of our Savior and his power over death is the key to God’s greater plan…His plan for your good and His glory. So take heart, embrace the peace and rest that He provides, and then set your sights on His glorious plan! What’s the point? He is risen!

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Have you ever wondered if you can make a difference in someone’s life? I believe most people want to make a difference in others, but many feel like they are incapable. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the thing that should be of utmost importance in our lives. That is a great truth because it is the gospel that changes lives. However, Paul made note of something. In verse 10, he said, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” What Paul meant by that was that it was the grace of God that rescued him from an empty life and gave him purpose. Though at one time he was on the wrong path, God changed his course. Paul went from being a man bent on destroying people to a man who sought to rescue people. He recognized that this change clearly came from God. It was God’s grace that gave him new direction.

Paul also noted that making a difference in others did take hard work. Also in verse 10, he noted that he worked harder than others to make a difference (we all can get into a little comparison game at times). However, he clarified that by saying, “though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Paul knew that even his hard work of reaching others was really not his own doing but God working in him. Therefore, I believe he would conclude that no matter how hard he had to work in comparison to others didn’t really matter. What mattered was that he did what he could for the Lord, and the Lord worked. What was the result? Look at what he says in verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Paul at this point put away comparisons and said what really matters is that Christ was preached and people believed. That is the point we need to hear. If you really want to make a difference in someone’s life, how do you do it? Preach Jesus. For some it might be a laborious time-consuming effort; for others things may go easier. It really shouldn’t matter to us as long as Jesus is preached. Let me ask today: Are you preaching Jesus? If not start today. It doesn’t matter your past because God, through Jesus, is the one who makes you who are, and it is God that will empower you to make a difference for him. If you share Jesus, you will not fail. Just share and keep sharing. Sometimes the task will be easier and sometimes the task will be harder but the goal is the same. Preach so some believe.