Which came first, The New Covenant or the Old?

chicken-or-egg-cropped1-e14083893941561Galatians 3:15-29

I’ve tried to ask my now five year old, Gwyn, which came first, the chicken or the egg? She’s not quite ready to contemplate such philosophical dilemmas! When she stared at me with a blank look, I realized that she didn’t even realize that eggs came from chickens. So, I then tried to explain that to her! After waxing eloquently about how eggs are produced and laid by chickens, I then asked her, “So, what lays an egg?” Her response, “Mommy Eggs?” Maybe one day we’ll pick the conversation back up!

But what about these two covenants? Which came first, the New or the Old? Our natural inclination is to assume that the old came first. Why else would it be called “The Old Covenant,” if it didn’t predate the New Covenant?

Here’s the deal. It may be hard to imagine, but the New Covenant is actually much much older than the Old Covenant! In fact, this is Paul’s entire point of Galatians 3. The Galatians had been duped. The Judaizers had moved their focus off Jesus and His finished work of making them perfectly forgiven and perfectly joined to God. They had been distracted from the truth into thinking that their behavior, their actions, their ability to keep rules, etc, was what ensured their forgiveness and union with God.

Where did the Judaizers get this thinking? Did they completely manufacture it?

Not at all! They got it right out of the pages of the Bible! When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He established a covenant with them–the Mosaic Covenant. You can read about it in great detail starting in Exodus 19. Basically, God said, “If you do everything I say to do, then you will be my people.” The nation of Israel responded with, “All that the Lord has spoken, WE WILL DO!”

Well, it wasn’t even forty short days later when the nation of Israel had completely failed at their end of this bargain.  They had created a golden calf to worship.  Aaron even said, “All I did was put gold in the fire, then out jumped this golden calf!”  Read it for yourself in Exodus 32:24!  Just forty short days and they had proven they could not keep their end of this bargain (aka, the Old Covenant) because golden calves kept jumping out of the fire at them!  I think my two year old has used a similar lie to try to get out of being in trouble!

So here’s the deal.  These Judaizers had a great precedent before them of how being God’s people works.  Jesus is a great starting point, but if we really want to be His people, then we must do everything He says to do.  The Bible (Exodus 19:5-6) even says so!

So how can Paul say this thinking is wrong, perverted, anyone who proclaims it should be accursed, and anyone who follows it is foolish and under a witch’s spell (Gal 3:1)?  Well, it’s because this covenant (the Old Covenant) on which the Judaizers were basing their preaching, actually came after the New Covenant was promised with Abraham way back, hundreds of years, before Moses and the Israelites.  I refer you to last week’s devotional blog for the details, but God promised His very presence, His Spirit, to all those who believe Him.  Abraham believed then, and we are to believe today.  The blessing of being God’s people was first promised to Abraham.  Through Abraham a seed would come that would be a blessing to all the people groups of the world.  This promised seed is Jesus Himself.  The blessing of God’s presence was first promised to all who simply believed like Abraham did.  In fact, the promise wasn’t even to Abraham, but it was to God Himself.  God knew that Abraham would not be able to keep his side of a bargain, so God didn’t give him a side.  God kept both sides–His and ours!  It’s scandalous, but it is God’s Grace!

So here’s Paul’s whole point to the Galatians: God’s promise of His giving Himself to all who believe Him was ratified, established, signed, sealed, and delivered hundreds of years before this other Covenant (the Mosaic Law) came around.  Therefore, the later covenant (The Old Covenant) cannot undo what was first promised by God.

So why then the Covenant of Law?

What an obvious question this is!  If our rightness with God doesn’t come from doing the law, then why did God give the law to Moses and the Israelites?  If we’re not to live by it, be fixated on it, nor be bound to it, then why did God give it?

This might not be satisfactory, but it’s the truth nonetheless!  The Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai to show humanity our great need to return back to God’s original covenant of faith.  You see, as long as man thinks he can earn God’s favor, he will try!  So the Law was given to reveal the great sinfulness of humanity and thus our need for God to graciously rescue us from our own inability.  I’ve heard the Law best described as God’s raising of 613 boney fingers pointing out each and every wicked and sinful part of our lives, proving to us that we cannot in a million years achieve forgiveness and union with God.  In other words, we are all born incompatible with God and many of us don’t know it.  So God graciously reveals just how incompatible we are by these 613 laws.  Aren’t you glad He did?  Otherwise, we’d be spending our entire lives trying to accomplish compatibility with God–something we have no hope of doing on our own.

Here’s the kicker.  The Law’s job is to point out our incompatibility.  Its job was not, is not, and will never be to actually make us compatible with God.  It can’t!  Hebrews 7:18 says the Law is “weak and useless” at actually fixing the problem!  The Law is perfect at what it does!  It diagnoses the problem, but it doesn’t fix the problem.  Can you imagine a doctor strapping an EKG machine to your chest in hopes it would fix your bad heart rhythm?  You’d call him or her a fool!  EKG’s are excellent at showing the doctor what the problem is, but it doesn’t fix it.  Paul is simply saying that we are equally foolish to think that living by laws, rules, and regulations will actually fix our problem.  The problem is death, distance, sin, and being in Adam.  The Law points that out to us and shuts us up!  The Law leads us to realize our great need for Someone greater to have mercy and extend grace.  The Law points out our death in sin.  Jesus comes in to give us life in Him!

So what is the purpose of the Law in the life of a believer?

Well, we’ll get into that more in Chapter 4, but ponder this for a minute.  If, as Paul says, the Law is to point out our death and our need for Jesus, then what is the Law’s value to us once it has done its job and we now have life and Jesus?

Does the Law show us how to live uprightly?  NO! It never had the ability to do that! It wasn’t designed to do that.

Does the Law show us how to say no to sin?  NO! It never had the ability to do that!  In fact, Paul says the Law does the exact opposite.  Romans 5:20 “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase.”  You read that right! The Law increased sinning.  If the Law increased sinning, then why do we think it will show us how to say no to sin today?

Does the Law give us life?  NO! It never had the ability to do that!  In fact, Paul says the Law does the exact opposite.  2 Corinthians 3:6-9 “the letter (The Law) kills, but the Spirit gives life.  But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, … how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?  For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.”

In these four short verses, the Law is said to kill and minister both death and condemnation!

So who brings life if it’s not the Law?

Now we’re talking!  It’s JESUS JESUS JESUS!  We haven’t died to the Law so that we can live to anarchy!  We’ve died to the Law so that we can now live to Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and Jesus in us!  Think about it, if you are living in Jesus and Jesus is living in you, will Jesus ever lead you into sinful living?  Of course not!  Will Jesus ever arouse sin within you?  Of course not!  Will Jesus ever minister you death and condemnation?  Of course not!  Will Jesus ever kill you?  Of course not!  The Law does these things and does them well.  It was its purpose!  Jesus came to actually give us what the Law showed us we so desperately needed–righteousness, life, holiness, godliness, love, perfection, Jesus Himself!

How do we live? What’s our fixation? What does our life look like free from Law and full of Jesus?

I love Galatians 3:27, “You have put on Christ!”  Just like we make a decision to put on clothes every morning before we walk out the door, we have made a decision to put on Christ by trusting Christ.  He is our very life.  The very compassion of Jesus is now your compassion.  The very forgiveness of Jesus is now your forgiveness.  The very selflessness of Jesus is your selflessness.  The very love of Jesus is now your love.  The very glory of Jesus is now your glory (John 17:22).  The very sonship of Jesus is now your sonship.  The very eternal life of Jesus is now your eternal life.  You have put Him on!

It is no longer natural nor normal for us to walk after sin and the flesh.  Our old nature from Adam was crucified and no longer lives.  But our new life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

What about laws in America? Aren’t we to live by the laws of the land?

This is very important and speaks to the heart of his very issue.  First, let us be very clear that no confidence of living by faith instead of living by law will provide you with any legal defense in a trial here in this world!  If you break a law of this land, you are responsible, guilty, condemned, and will face the appropriate penalty.  While you remain forgiven and free, clean and close in the courtroom of heaven, you will pay for your violations here in this world.  Our complete pardon only pertains to the courtroom where God is the Judge, not where man is the judge.

But please consider this.  Can laws in our country legislate morality?  No matter how many laws we create, we cannot legislate a moral people.  Laws are impotent at that.  Laws can modify behavior by making the punishment deter people from the bad behavior, but laws cannot create a good people.  What if you were living by a growing reality that Jesus is your actual life?  What if you were growing more and more aware of your absolute dependence upon Him?  What if you were so convinced that Jesus is your life that you start walking by His Spirit?  Do you think Jesus and His Spirit would lead you into violating even the laws of America?  Of course, they wouldn’t.  The fruits of walking by Christ’s Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In other words, as we are living by faith in the Son of God, these are the very qualities that will be on display through our lives.  Are there any laws in America against these?  Does the law say, “Thou shall not be patient?”… “Thou shall not be faithful?”…etc?  Of course not!  This is Paul’s whole crescendo, if we want to live Godly lives, there’s only one way–to live by faith (not by law) in Jesus!

Don’t take my word for it!

Read it for yourself – Galatians 3:15-29>

Questions to Consider!

  1. If you have put on Christ, what does that mean about who you are?
  2. As you see who you now are, clothed in Christ, think of a troubling scenario you’re in right now and how the realization of being clothed in Christ Himself affects that scenario. Perhaps it’s a scenario where you are struggling to forgive or to love. What does the revelation of Christ’s life being your life say about your new found ability to forgive and love?
  3. If Law based living never brings life but only more sinning, then why do we tend to live so much by Law and not by Jesus?
  4. Is there fear in you that to throw away law would only insight sin? If so, don’t read Galatians 4!

 

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Which came first, The New Covenant or the Old?

“Living by Faith, it’s really not new!” Galatians 3:1-14

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The core of the Galatian question is “How do we now live?”

The Judaizers, who came into town shortly after Paul had left, said that Jesus started everything in motion, but now they are to live by laws, rules, regulations…a code of ethics if you will. As we know, the Galatians had bought into this teaching as many of us (including myself) do or have. It sounds good, right? We want to live good and Godly lives so why would we not want to live by laws, rules, regulations, even a code of ethics that would ensure good behavior?

Well, in Galatians 3:11, Paul reminds us of Habakkuk 2:4 which says, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” This is really important to see. The man, woman, boy, or girl who is right with God is to live by faith. Paul’s whole point is that trusting Jesus to get you in the door (think salvation) is the very same thing that leads you each and every day here and now in this world! FAITH. It’s trusting Jesus. The Galatians had started out trusting Jesus, but then, like Peter from Gal 2, they reverted back to laws, rules, regulations, etc., to determine their rightness with God. They were made right with God because of Jesus, and they remain right with God because of Jesus. Keeping or not keeping certain laws, rules, and regulations, as good as they are, does not improve or worsen their rightness with God. They had been distracted into thinking it did, and unfortunately, so have many of us today.

Paul continues demonstrating that we are not to live by rules, but by simply trusting Jesus. However, there was a great concern. If there are no rules to live by, then won’t that spiral the young churches in Galatia into licentious sinning? Isn’t that what we think? If there are no rules to follow, won’t people just sin all the more?

Let’s be really clear about this! It’s important! The scriptures are not teaching us to throw away “law-based living” for anarchy! The scriptures are teaching us to throw away “law-based living” for “faith-based living.” Listen to how Paul says it, “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Paul is clearly saying he doesn’t live by laws, rules, and regulations! He lives by trusting Jesus Himself who is now in Him. Rejecting law-based living for faith-based living will never result in anarchy, but rather in the fruit of the Spirit being manifested through us (we’ll get more into that in Gal 5)!

Let’s face it, this thing of “living by faith and not by laws” sounds new to us, doesn’t it? Many who are seeing the finished work of Christ at Life Journey say things like, “I’ve never seen this before…this is so new to me!” While it certainly can be “new to us,” let us be encouraged that it is not new at all!

Think about this with me. If you lived when Abraham lived and you were to ask him how he was doing in his law based living, what would his response be? I know what his response would be! He’d say, “WHAT LAW?” We’ll see this more next week, but Abraham lived hundreds of years before the Law was given to Moses. There was no Law by which to live. There was only one way Abraham could measure his rightness with God and it wasn’t by doing or not doing the ten commandments! It was simply by trusting what God had told him.

“ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD AND WAS COUNTED AS RIGHTEOUS.”  So here’s the big picture of Galatians 3:1-14. What was it that got you right with God? Was it trusting God or doing the law? It was trusting God, of course. What is it that keeps you right with God? Is it trusting God or has the game now changed to doing the law? It has always been trusting God and never anything else. The law could not transfer our inner man from death to life and the law cannot transform our outer man into the image of Christ. Only Jesus and trusting Jesus can do that! It’s nothing new!

Think with me of how cruel the Lord would be if He changed the rules in the middle of the game. If He said, “Ok, just trust me to be one with me,” and then you trust Him only to then hear Him say, “Ok, now that you’re one with me, now do all these things in order to stay close with me.” That would be the biggest bait and switch ever! If we could never do enough to enter a fellowship with God, how in the world are we able to do enough to maintain fellowship with God?

Abraham is a picture for us. He simply believed God. That is our call today. We trust God. We trust who He is, what He’s done, what He’s made us, and that He’s not going anywhere! Look again at Gal 3:5. How is God’s Spirit supplied? Is it by doing works or by hearing and believing? This is huge! This is God’s very presence in us. It is ours not by doing or not doing rules, regulations, or codes of conduct. His very presence is in us, with us, near us, joined to us, and not going anywhere because of hearing and trusting!

Let’s be honest, we have been distracted from this truth with another gospel that teaches us to “pursue the presence of God,” to “practice the presence of God,” or to “strive for the presence of God.” We have replaced the truth that God’s very Spirit is supplied to us abundantly already as a result of hearing with faith. We’ve been distracted into thinking that we must pursue, practice and strive for the very thing that is guaranteed to be ours already.

So what do we do?

Do we just kick our feet up and be completely flippant about life, holiness, and glorifying God with our bodies? Of course not! We “live by faith!” We live believing that Jesus is in us, with us, and not going anywhere! We live trusting that regardless of what is done in the body, Jesus lives in us. We live trusting that He’s made us holy, righteous, and even perfect (Hebrews 10:14).

We don’t need laws, rules, regulations, even codes of conducts to direct our paths. Remember, Paul calls these the very things that empower sin in the first place (1 Cor. 15:56). We don’t need these things because we have something, or rather Someone, so much better now in us to guide us and direct our lives. Better than that, we have the One who is life! Jesus. Don’t you think that Jesus will do a better job of leading us into paths of righteousness here and now rather than what laws could ever do? Of course He can. The real question is, “Are we going to live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us?” Is Jesus truly enough?

Don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 3:1-14 for yourself>

Questions to Consider:

  1. In full and honest self-evaluation, could Paul easily call you “foolish” and “bewitched” for becoming distracted from trusting Jesus alone for our rightness with God and thinking that our adherence to certain behavioral codes manage our rightness with Him?
  2. Is this as big of a deal as Paul seems to be making it? If so, why do you think it’s such a big deal?
  3. “The Law is not of faith…” why not?
  4. If the promise of being right with God through faith was first made to Abraham, why do you think we are so easily distracted into thinking things other than faith make us right with God?
  5. The presence of God’s Spirit comes to us by hearing and believing. This is plain from 3:3,5, 14. Are you convinced that the Spirit of God is present fully and completely in you and with you by your hearing and believing? Are there any obstacles in your thinking keeping you from accepting this truth? If so, what are they?
  6. Why is it so much easier to see God’s presence close to you when your behavior is spot on and far from you when it’s coming short?
  7. Which is easier to believe: 1. God’s presence is completely with me fully always and forever because of my hearing and believing? or 2. God’s presence is conditional on my recent behavioral patterns?
  8. When facing everyday challenges in life, why is it so critical to see God’s perfect presence always with you? Similarly, what changes about your experience through these everyday challenges, knowing that God is perfectly present with you?
  9. Listen to this inspiring song reminding us that God’s presence will be with us always! https://youtu.be/IvFTgNd6Iko
“Living by Faith, it’s really not new!” Galatians 3:1-14

Death is Good News? Since when?

death-title-image_tcm7-187855Last week we were stopped in our tracks by Paul when he said, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8-9. It showed us that there is one gospel, and it didn’t take very long for the good news of the grace of God to be replaced with another message of trusting Jesus, plus trusting other things in order to be right with God.

Whenever I read these two verses in Galatians 1, I am more and more desirous to know what it was exactly that Paul first proclaimed to the Galatians before they got distracted by these other folks. We all too readily assume that what we have heard and received all our life is exactly what the gospel truly is. It may be. But what if it isn’t? Don’t you think the slightest bit of humility would be a good thing in this regard? If Paul is this serious about the message he first proclaimed being the only message to the point that anyone who has perverted (distorted) it should be “accursed,” don’t you think it would be time well invested to measure what we do believe by what Paul first shared? I do! So what if we find discrepancies where we too, like the Galatians, have been distracted?  Isn’t it better to understand it correctly now than to continue believing something that isn’t the true gospel?

Over the course of Galatians, Paul makes it plain what it was that he first did and didn’t proclaim regarding the gospel. Paul said that the message he first proclaimed to the Galatians was a message about “HIM” (1:16), about “liberty which we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4), about how we too “have been crucified with Christ” (2:20), and about how we now “live by faith” (2:20).

“HIM” (1:16)

It is Jesus. It is all about Jesus. It is about who Jesus is. It is about what Jesus has done.  It is about what Jesus does for everyone who turns to Him for salvation.

Paul’s message was never about anything other than “JESUS.”  Paul never promoted the Law.  Paul never encouraged Law.  Paul never hinted at Law-based living.

In fact, Paul called the Law, including the Ten Commandments, the ministry of death and condemnation which did have glory but has not glory anymore because of the far surpassing glory of Jesus himself who now lives in us – 2 Cor. 3.

Paul never taught that law-based living was the way to break sinful habits in our lives. In fact, Paul taught that the power of sin is the Law. 1 Cor. 15:56. Paul taught that there was only one thing that teaches us to say no to sin and yes to Jesus. It isn’t rules and laws, but Grace itself – Titus 2:11-12.

Why? Why did Paul preach only “HIM?”  Why only Jesus? Why didn’t Paul preach law-based living but rather Jesus-based living? Why did Paul subject himself to such ridicule and rejection from his Jewish brothers?

The answer is because Paul received this gospel of the grace of God by direct revelation of Jesus Christ himself. If Jesus wanted law promoted, he would have revealed that to Paul, but Jesus revealed just the opposite. In Christ we are now dead to the law and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Paul preached “HIM.” He wasn’t distracted. I suggest we preach “HIM” and nothing else! If Jesus and Jesus alone was what Jesus revealed to Paul to proclaim to the nations, why would we add anything to it?

The Galatians were duped, even distracted. What about us?

“Liberty which we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4)

What was the gospel that Jesus revealed to Paul and Paul proclaimed to the Galatians?

It was a gospel of LIBERTY—FREEDOM.  A perverted gospel proclaims bondage to laws, rules, and regulations. A perverted gospel says, “You must do in order to be.” The true gospel says, “As He is, so are we now in this world.” I John 4:17.

There is no bondage to laws, rules and regulations in the true gospel. There is FREEDOM—LIBERTY in Christ Jesus.

“Crucified with Christ” (2:20)

How can these things be? How can our rightness with God be based solely on His grace through our faith? Why do our works, our effort, our behavior, our commitment, and our ability not factor into our rightness with God? Why is our ok’ness with God based on Jesus’ record and not ours?

To put it simply, because, believe it or not, we have died. If you ask any Christian what the gospel is, he or she will rightly tell you something about the “death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.” Absolutely! But Paul tells us that someone else also died, was also buried, and also rose to life with Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20.

Yes, Jesus died. But so did you if you believe Him. Yes, Jesus was buried, but so were you if you believe Him. Yes, Jesus was raised to life, but so were you if you believe Him. Yes, Jesus did it all. The amazing thing is that, by grace through faith, you were in Him and with Him when He did it all.

Why is this so great a deal to Paul? Well, what is the penalty for violating the Law of God?  Yes, death. Who died? Jesus did, and if you believe Him, SO DID YOU!

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4.

So if Jesus died for your sins (past, present, and future), and you have been placed into Him and, therefore, have also died for the penalty of your sins (past, present, and future), what further penalty can God inflict upon you? The penalty for sin is death and Jesus died; by grace through faith, so did you! Can God now hold a sin against you that He already has held against His Son? No!

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?” Romans 8:33-34.

If God does not bring a charge against those who are in His Son, then what does that mean? It means you are forgiven! You are forgiven not because God was nice one day and winked at your sins. You are forgiven and free because God put all your sins into Jesus and poured out the penalty for your sins on His only begotten Son—DEATH. You are forgiven because you have been placed into His same death so that you would be placed into His same life!

Because of Jesus, sin is such a “done deal” in the mind of God. Because of Jesus, the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:34 has been fulfilled, “I remember their sins and their lawless deeds NO MORE!”

“live by faith” (2:20)

So how are we to live?

Ok, if we are aren’t to live by law anymore, then how do we live? If we strip away law based living, won’t that breed all sorts of sinful living?

This is tends to be the great sticking point in the message Paul first proclaimed. If there’s no more law to live by, Paul, then how do we live?

“the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20.

We live by faith! We’ll see next week that “The Law is not of faith.” Galatians 3:12. Faith is what pleases God, not Law based living (Hebrews 11:6). Living by faith means we are living in this world based on a reality that we cannot see. It is secure. It is steadfast. It is immovable. It is eternal. It is Jesus! We are living in this world based on the reality of what He has made us already in His kingdom.

You see, He has already made you holy (Hebrews 10:10). He has already made you perfect (Hebrews 10:14). He has already made you righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). He has already made you complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). To live by faith is to live in this world based on the reality of what He has already made you in His redemption of you and his union with you.

In other words, He’s made you holy, so to live by faith is to live holy here in this world. We don’t live holy lives here in this world to accomplish anything in God’s kingdom. We live holy lives because we already are holy in God’s kingdom. We can’t see it. It’s faith. It’s trusting something we cannot see. But if we don’t trust that our old man has died and that our new life is Christ (to live is Christ), then there’s nothing to trust—there’s no faith to live by.

God wants us to live holy and godly lives so much so that he has actually made us holy and godly! The question really is, “do you believe Him and what He has said He’s done in you?

Don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 2:11-21 for yourself>

Questions to Consider:

  1. In essence, becoming a believer is Jesus taking your old life and crucifying it with Him so that you could have a new life now in Him. Do you see yourself as having died with Christ and your life now as Christ’s very life, fused to Him? Why is this so great a deal?
  2. Do you see God holding judgment for you because of sins you may still choose to do?
  3. If the penalty for your sins is death and you have been placed into Jesus’ death by grace through faith, what further penalty does God have for you? Can God charge you twice for the same sins?
  4. As a believer, have you always seen yourself as having been crucified and your life now Christ’s life, or is this new? Do you see how not seeing your own crucifixion with Christ can pervert the gospel? How so?
  5. Check out this 20 minute teaching about how the transformation of our lives works based on grace and not law!
Death is Good News? Since when?

Gospel Distractions. How many “gospels” are there?

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Wikipedia defines distraction as the process of diverting the attention of an individual or group from the desired area of focus and thereby blocking or diminishing the reception of desired information.” If you’re a sports fan, you may have seen the latest thing to distract free-throw shooters–“The Curtain of Distraction”. I’ll let you google it for yourself! The whole idea is to distract the shooter from his goal of making a free throw with all sorts of crazy antics.

Most of the time when we hear a church or a preacher talk about distractions, we hear them talking about things that are distracting us from doing more for Jesus. I know this all too well! I was one of those preachers. I attended those churches! Sure, there are all sorts of things that can distract a person’s commitment of doing things for Jesus. The warning from these pastors is to watch out for things that can come in to distract us from our true mission of life—getting closer and closer to Jesus.

But, this isn’t at all what we are talking about for these next 10 weeks as we walk through Galatians. I don’t think our mission as believers is to “get closer and closer to Jesus.” “Why not?” you may ask. Well, because the scriptures teach us that we are already as close to Jesus as we possibly can be. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Think about it with me; if we are already “one spirit with the Lord,” then how could our Christian mission be to “get closer and closer to the Lord?”

In Colossians 1:27, Paul says Christ actually lives in us. In Colossians 3:3, Paul says that our life is hidden with Christ in God. Then in verse 4 he says that Jesus Himself is our life. I ask again, how can we get closer and closer to the One:

  1. who lives in us,
  2. in whom we are hidden, and
  3. who is our very life?

Doesn’t it sound like He’s pretty close already? It does to me!

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always feel as though He is very close! In all honestly, there are many times it doesn’t feel like He could be any more distant. But what shall be our truth? Our feelings or the scriptures? Our feelings tell us He’s distant. The scriptures tell us He’s close. Our feelings tell us we have a long way to go to be close to Him. The scriptures tell us that we have become one spirit with Him. To which are we going to listen?

Here’s where Galatians comes in! Paul landed in the Galatia region around 47 AD to proclaim the wonderful news of what Jesus had done. Many believed! Then shortly after Paul left the region, other men came in and distracted them from the profound simplicity of what Paul had first shared with them. Paul told them that by trusting Jesus, they were now right with God. These other men said that was the starting point but that they needed to graduate to various rules and laws of Judaism to really be right with God. Not wanting to miss out on being right with God, the Galatians became distracted from the truth and began to believe that things other than Jesus alone makes them right with God.

In fact, Paul says, “8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8-9. 

You think Paul took this thing of the gospel seriously? Yes, he did! So did Jesus! Jesus held up a child and said in order to come to Him we must have the faith of a child and then said that anyone who causes a child to stumble in their faith alone should have a milestone tied around their neck and drowned!

Paul was serious about trusting Jesus PLUS NOTHING. Jesus was serious about trusting Jesus PLUS NOTHING. I think it only makes sense for us to be serious about TRUSTING JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

There was a very clear gospel that Paul proclaimed to the Galatians and he’s saying that if anyone changes what he first told them and what was first received, these perverters of the grace of Jesus are to be cursed, destroyed, taken out! Now he’s not advocating violence! Murder is bad! However, we can see how passionate Paul is about gospel purity and gospel clarity.

So what was the gospel that Paul first proclaimed to the Galatians? This my friends, is the mission of my ministry. I ask our community group to pray all the time for me that I would grow in my understanding of the gospel that Paul first brought to the Galatians for there is not other gospel. Any thing else is a perversion of the true gospel.

Like putting new wine in old wine-skins or using a new patch to fix a hole in an old shirt, mixing Law and Grace–the Old Covenant with the New Covenant–doesn’t work. It ruins both of them.

Just like the Galatians became distracted, we too get distracted. We think that a little law, some rules, some regulations are needed to keep us on track or to make us right with God.

READ GALATIANS 1-2:10 AND GET THE PICTURE FOR YOURSELF >

Questions to Consider:
  1. In what ways do we continue this same struggle with being distracted from the true gospel some 2000 years later?
  2. Why does it seem so easy to get distracted? These Galatians had the Apostle Paul as their spiritual father if you will. Why were they so easily distracted and why do you think we get distracted so easily?
  3. What is so alluring about “other gospels” that distract us from the true gospel?
  4. Think of all the distractions while driving a car. How do you ensure safe driving? Can these same practices apply to fight distractions from the true gospel?
  5. How much does God still love us even when we get distracted and look to other things than Jesus alone to ensure our rightness with Him?
Gospel Distractions. How many “gospels” are there?