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 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.

John 11:17-27

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26, ESV

Before His own resurrection, Jesus stood with Martha at her brother’s tomb and proclaimed that Lazarus would rise again. At that moment, the situation looked bleak, to put it mildly. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, so who really would blame Martha for thinking that the hope of resurrection was for another day (the last day)? Yet, we find that Jesus was pointing Martha not to the horizon but to Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Four days in the tomb were proof that Lazarus couldn’t raise himself, and the reality is that–dead in our sins–we can’t raise ourselves either. That requires the power of God and the person of Jesus, who invites us to believe in Him and experience His resurrection life–a life that is dead to sin and alive to God. That isn’t just about a different destination. It’s also about a different path with different priorities and passions than we had before we believed in Jesus.

That life–Jesus’ life–is available to everyone who lives and believes in Him. In Jesus’ conversation with Martha, we learn that the hope of the resurrection is for the last day and for this day. The resurrection isn’t just what we sing on Easter Sunday. It’s how we live today and will live all the “todays” to come. So, the question for us today is the same as the one Jesus asked Martha so long ago, “Do you believe this?”

Matthew 26:36-75

Beginning with Judas’ betrayal, it all played out just as Jesus and the Scriptures had predicted. Throughout the night of His arrest, we hear Jesus pointing to the will of God and to the word of God–that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Meanwhile, the chief priests and the council sought false testimony instead of proclaiming God’s truth. Jesus prayed three times for God’s will to be done even in the face of unfathomable suffering; Peter couldn’t even admit that He knew Jesus. When the rooster crowed, everything was just as the Scriptures said it would be and just as Jesus said it would be.

At every moment, Jesus stood squarely in the center of the Father’s will, perfectly in line with the Scriptures, as He moved toward the cross. Meanwhile, the disciples slept, Judas betrayed Him, the chief priests made a mockery of justice, and Peter swore that he didn’t know this Jesus everyone was talking about. Sound familiar? We stumble around in apathy, rebellion, injustice, and fear, but Jesus stands squarely in the center of the Father’s will, ready to make a way for us to stand with Him. 1 Peter 2:22-24 says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Today, if you’re in Jesus, then you can stand with Jesus. Let us die to sin and live to righteousness. Let us speak the truth, return evil with good, and trust the Lord in all things. May His will be done.

Matthew 26:1-35

I don’t like storms. Not even a little bit. As I write these words, the possibility of storms in the forecast has me repeatedly checking the radar and refreshing the forecast. I do not intend to be out in the elements or even out on the road when the storm arrives. If I can avoid a storm, I will.

In this passage, it is clear that a storm is coming. Jesus warns the disciples of his nearing crucifixion, then the chief priests and the elders gather to plot against Him. Jesus is anointed with expensive ointment and tells the disciples that he is being prepared for burial. Judas negotiates the price of his betrayal and then responds to Jesus’ prediction incredulously, “Is it I, Rabbi?” Taking the bread and the cup, Jesus pointed to the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins, and then, much to Peter’s dismay, Jesus predicts his denial.

Over and over again, in the face of the gathering storm, Jesus moves forward–not compulsively checking the forecast but resolved in love to secure our salvation. So, whatever storm–metaphorically speaking–you find yourself in, you can trust that Jesus isn’t looking for somewhere safe to run. He’s a safe place for you to run.

Matthew 23

It was one of the worst smells I can remember, and it came without any warning. When you open a freezer, you don’t really expect to be greeted by any scent at all . . . unless something has gone horribly wrong. Sometimes, though, things go wrong. As I walked downstairs toward the freezer in the basement, nothing seemed amiss. When I switched on the light, nothing seemed amiss. But when I opened the freezer, it was putridly apparent that something was wrong–even though everything appeared to be fine on the outside. The breaker had tripped, the freezer had thawed, and everything inside had combined into one of the worst odors I can remember. So, I can tell you that everything looking right (or even smelling right) on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean it’s working right on the inside.

In Matthew 23, Jesus had some strongly worded warnings for the scribes and the Pharisees. He started by telling the crowds to do what the scribes and the Pharisees said instead of what they did, and it only got worse from there. On the outside, Jesus said, they appeared to be doing the right things, but on the inside, their hearts reeked of arrogant self-righteousness, of greed and self-indulgence.

When I opened the freezer door that day, what greeted me was repulsive. It didn’t take me long to close that door and to seek out fresh air. Jesus’ warnings to the scribes and the Pharisees tell us that the hypocrisy of professed believers can have a similar effect on those who see it. That’s a warning for each of us to consider carefully today. Do our actions match what we say we believe? And if the answer is “no,” let’s not miss verse 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus certainly didn’t downplay the seriousness of the sins of Israel, but He also was clear in his desire that–if they had been willing–He would have gathered them beneath His protection. Unfortunately, they were not willing, but that doesn’t have to be the case with us. When we uncover hypocrisy in our hearts, let’s repent and find restoration in Jesus.

After I caught my breath, I can’t say I was excited about cleaning up the mess left behind by a freezer without power, but pretending it wasn’t there didn’t make the mess go away. In fact, if ignored, it was only going to get worse, so I gathered the necessary supplies and got to work. The reality is that we all have places where our words and our actions don’t match up, and in His grace and by His Spirit, Jesus will at times let us smell the stench of our own hypocrisy. When He does, we’ll likely be repulsed. We may be tempted to slam the door and run away, but ignoring the issue won’t make it better. Instead, let’s take our hypocrisy to Jesus and let the Spirit do the work of aligning our words and our actions with His words and His actions.

Matthew 21:1-17

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9, ESV

First it was the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem and then it was the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The crowds on the streets and the children in the temple were both able to recognize their need for God to save them, to see that Jesus is the long-awaited and promised Messiah, so they cried out to Him. But not everybody was ready to celebrate Jesus’ arrival. We’re told that when the chief priests and scribes saw all that Jesus was doing and heard the praises of others, they were indignant, so they brought their concerns to Jesus, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Instead of allaying their concerns, Jesus confirmed their suspicions–when the crowds were crying out to Him, they were praising God–but instead of crying out to Jesus, the scribes and chief priests placed themselves in judgment over those who did. Instead of seeing who Jesus is, they were focusing on themselves and those around them.

As we encounter Jesus today, my prayer is that we’ll cry out, “Hosanna,” instead of placing ourselves in judgment over others. Let’s confess our need for a savior and cry out to the God who saves!

Mathew 20:17-34

Jesus had told his disciples in Matthew 19:28, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” So, when the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him to ask if her sons could sit at his right hand and his left hand in His kingdom, her question wasn’t coming out of nowhere. It wasn’t some wild grab for power. It was a response to the earlier teaching of Jesus. However, Jesus’ response shows that she misunderstood what His kingdom was about–as we are also prone to do. The kingdom of Jesus isn’t about accumulating power for the good of ourselves but about exercising power, even laying down our power, to serve others. That is the way Jesus has shown us, coming “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” How can you serve like Jesus today?

Matthew 18:1-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Matthew 18:1

One thing we’ve seen about Jesus is that He often defies the expectations of those around Him, and I have to think His answer to this question was not what His disciples were expecting. Maybe they’d been debating which of their names they would hear in response. Maybe they were expecting a description of human achievement and hard-earned success. Whatever they were expecting, what they got was a call to humility, to a childlike dependence on God. Humility–not hubris–is the mark of greatness because humility allows us to see ourselves, one another, and our God for who we really are. When we come to God in humility, we see our dependence on Him for our every need–physical and spiritual. We see one another as fellow recipients of God’s merciful provision. And we see God as a relentlessly loving Father who pursues us when we stray. With that in mind, I’m praying that you have a “great” day–one spent in humble dependence on the God who loves us all more deeply than we can even comprehend.