Nine and 1/2 reasons why I no longer preach nor practice “The Tithe!”

tithing1

For the first thirty-one years of my life, I was committed to a teaching that as Christians, we are to give 10% of our income to the church in order to be obedient to God and to worship God. Not wanting to be disobedient and not wanting to dishonor God, I faithfully gave at least 10% of my income each time I got paid. I mean, who wants to be disobedient and dishonoring to God? Not me!

As I look back, I can still recount much of the teaching by men and women who truly loved Jesus. Some of the most motivating teaching was the teaching that went something like this:

“God is going to get what is His. If you don’t give your tithe, God will get it one way or another. Your car will break down. You’ll get a huge medical/hospital bill. You’ll pay it one way or another so just go ahead and give it to the church.”  And, of course, the tag  would be included, “But you better pay your tithe with a happy heart, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Well, I didn’t want my car to breakdown, and I certainly didn’t want to end up in the hospital, so I made sure to give at least 10% because if I didn’t then God would….

Other common teaching I recall was something to the effect of, “You pay your tithes and then you give an offering.” So 10% isn’t even the requirement. The 10% is just the starting point. The 10% just settles the obedience factor. Now, if a person really wants to worship, if one really wants to be generous, if one really wants to show love for God, then give above the required tithe! So now 10% isn’t even enough. I needed to present an “offering” to God.

I didn’t just practice the tithe, I also preached it! As a youth minister, I recall putting baskets out in front of the teenagers and playing some quiet, somber, reflective music and warning them to “not rob God.”  If they made $10 mowing grass, they needed to put $1 in the basket in order to be obedient and even more if they wanted to give an offering to God.

Admittedly, I’ve not been exposed to all the teaching on this that is out there. So I may not have the best of exposure to what is the typical teaching on tithing. All I can speak to is my experience. I realized a few years ago at a meeting of hundreds of churches that this teaching is very wide spread when there was a unanimous vote at this meeting to affirm the requirement of the tithe by christians.

So I don’t know what your experience is with this thing called tithing, but my guess is that if you’re still reading this, you have at least heard of it. I would like to share nine and half thoughts as to why I no longer preach nor practice the tithe.

  1. Because I’m not Jewish –

Believe it or not, the requirement to tithe was a command to the Jewish people as a part of what we call the “Mosaic Law.” As a part of this Law, God allowed eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel to own land and possessions. However, there was one tribe that was not permitted to own land or make money—the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was set aside by the Lord to maintain and manage everything having to do with God’s Tabernacle and the subsequent Temple. God wanted their complete focus on serving Him and the people as His priests. These Levitical priests were solely responsible for the sacrificial offerings presented to God during the Old Covenant. They were busy! Some have estimated the nation of Israel as millions of people. This one tribe worked non-stop offering sacrifice after sacrifice for the sins of the Israelites. There weren’t even chairs in the Temple where they could sit down and take a break. The Lord knew their time would be needed to do this endless work of sacrificing (it’s endless because the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins). So the Lord provided for these Levitical priests by commanding the other eleven tribes of Israel to give 10% (tithe) of all their possessions to the Levites so the Levites could live. God used this commandment to provide for the needs of His Old Covenant Priests.

I no longer preach nor participate in tithing because I am not Jewish. As far as I know, I am not a descendent of Jacob, therefore, I am not an Israelite, therefore, I was never given the Mosaic Law, therefore, I was never commanded to tithe in order to support the Levitical Priesthood. As far as I can trace, my heritage is Gentile. Gentiles were never invited to the Mosaic Law. In other words, Gentiles were never commanded to tithe in support of the Levitical Priesthood.

  1. Because I am dead to the Law –

Let’s just, for a brief minute, concede to the fact that I, as a gentile, was commanded via the Mosaic Law to tithe in support of the Levitical Priesthood. Even if that is the case, I still would not preach nor practice the tithe because I am dead to the Law.

Throughout many of Paul’s letters, we learn that we have died to the Law. We died to the Law so that we could be joined to Someone else—Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, 2 Cor. 3, says that we are only qualified to serve the New Covenant. What does this mean? Well, just as a server in the restaurant serves you your drinks, dinner, and the bill, you and I are only qualified to serve, or dish out, the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not the Old Covenant of Law PLUS Grace. The New Covenant is nothing like the Old Covenant. In fact, one of God’s promises about the New Covenant is that it is nothing like the Old (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8). The Old Covenant was a perfect collection of 613 laws that the children of Israel must do in order to be blessed. The New Covenant is nothing like that. In the New Covenant we “have been blessed with every spiritual blessing” already in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). The Old Covenant was based upon the ability of the Israelites to keep their end of the bargain—perfectly obey. The New Covenant is based upon the perfect ability of Jesus. In fact, we don’t even have an end of a bargain to keep in the New Covenant. If we did have a side to keep, then what would happen when we failed to keep it?

Think of it this way, what are the wages of sin? Death, right (Romans 6:23)? So if God were to keep track of our sins today in the New Covenant and hold them against us in any way, what would we earn? DEATH. Far too long I changed the scriptures to say that the wages of sin isn’t death but distance. It isn’t termination, but rather tension in my relationship with God. NO! The wages of sin is death. God counted all our sins (past, present, & future) against Jesus and Jesus died. He died because He became my sin and the wages of my sin is DEATH. This is how God can get away with declaring that He no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor 5; Romans 2). It’s because He already counted them! This is the New Covenant. We are forgiven.

When I trusted in Jesus, I died. I was crucified with Christ and I died to both Sin itself (Romans 6) and I died to the Law (Romans 7; Galatians 2:19). The Law has no jurisdiction in my life anymore. Paul calls the Ten Commandments the “ministry of death” and the “ministry of condemnation” in 2 Cor 3. We should call it that too! For what is the penalty for violating the Ten Commandments? Death and Condemnation! Don’t believe me? Read Exodus. When Moses walked down the mountain with the stone tablets in his hands and found the people already violating nearly half of them (remember the golden calf), what was their judgment? DEATH.  Three thousand Jews died that day because they violated the Ten Commandments. “The Letter KILLS” (2 Cor 3). By the way, this was the first pentecost of the Old Covenant.

Do you happen to recall what happened on the first pentecost of the New Covenant. Thousands of Jewish law breakers heard a new message. This time, instead of being killed, these Jews were given life! How many in Acts 2 were saved? That’s right! Three thousand were saved and baptized on the first pentecost of the New Covenant. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life!” Now how could those Jews be given life instead of the death they deserved? Surely they had violated at least one of the Ten Commandments. They were given life because God no longer was counting their sins against them. His accounting of sins ended at Calvary. The sin debt had been paid…in full.

This is the Covenant we are qualified to serve one another, not the covenant of law, but the covenant of grace. So I no longer preach nor practice the “tithe” because I died to the Law and now live united to Christ Himself!

  1. Because Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek –

A common objection to the idea that we are no longer held to the tithe is the fact that the tithe existed prior to the giving of the Law. Therefore, since it predated the Law, and the Law is what has been removed, tithing remains because it was already a thing before the Law. Well, I’ll concede to the truth that tithing did exist prior to Moses. It did. There is one incredible passage in Genesis where Abram paid tithe to Melchizedek. However, instead of examining the “why” behind the “what” of this amazing passage, the general take away is, “See! Tithing predates the Law so we are still supposed to do it!”

Ok. If we are going to take this approach and think that Abram paying tithe to Melchizedek was only to give us a precedent as to how we are to tithe today in the New Covenant, then let us examine how Abram did it and see if that’s how we do it today:

  1. Abram gave Melchizedek 10% of all the loot Abram took from the kings he had just defeated! It’s a long story (read Genesis 14), but Abram fought against some other kings and defeated them and took all their belongings as his own. On Abram’s way home, this mysterious priest named Melchizedek blesses Abram by giving him some bread and wine (sound familiar? Matthew 26:24) and Abram decided to bless Melchizedek with 10% of all the “spoils of war.” It wasn’t even Abram’s belongings that he “tithed” to Melchizedek. So if this is our example of how to tithe today, then does it mean we are to take things from others and bring it to the local church lawn to drop off?
  2. Abram tithed to Melchizedek one time! This is really important to see! If Genesis 14 is our precedent for New Testament tithing, then I guess we are only supposed to tithe one time! Abram didn’t come back to Melchizedek every two weeks after his pay check was directly deposited to pay tithe over and over. He did it once.
  3. Abram wasn’t commanded to tithe. As I referenced above, the majority of my church experience centered around the idea that we are to tithe so that we can be obedient. Well, who commanded Abram to tithe? I don’t see a commandment. So if Abram didn’t tithe, would he have been “disobedient?” How could he be disobedient for not doing something he wasn’t told to do! So why did Abram do it? Because he wanted to! We’ll get into that later.

Abram tithing to Melchizedek is NOT our precedent for continual tithing to the local church in the New Covenant. NO! It is something so much bigger than that! If we look at Abram and Melchizedek and come away with some precedent about tithing, then we are totally missing the greater glory of the interaction. Fortunately, Hebrews 7 reveals what this incredible interaction between Abram and Melchizedek is really a precedent for. Hebrews 7 says that when Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek, it proved that the Priesthood of Melchizedek was greater than the priesthood of Levi. Hebrews says that Levi was in the loins of Abram. So when Abram submitted to the priesthood of Melchizedek, so was the priesthood of Levi. What’s the big deal about that? Only the fact that Jesus came from the Priesthood of Melchizedek and not from the priesthood of Levi. This means that the entire Levitical Priesthood had already submitted to the Priesthood of Jesus a couple of generations before Levi himself was even born!

  1. Because the Law is not of faith –

In Galatians 3:12, Paul says, “The Law is not of faith.” It would seem to me that our righteousness, our intimacy, our closeness, our union, etc. with the God of the Universe is all, 100%, by grace through faith. This means that we have what we have—perfect intimacy with God—based on His goodness and not on ours. Having died to the law, we no longer have any relationship to it. We do not look at the accomplishments of our flesh of doing good behavior and then say, “Look! Now I’m closer…now I’m cleaner…now I’m a little further along in my pursuit of God.” NO! This is law based living. It is living by sight and not by faith. It is determining your closeness with God by your performance. This is not “grace by faith.” Grace by faith means that God has fully, 100%, given you Himself completely. This gift is not based on your performance, but rather, it is based on the performance of one Christ Jesus. God is not waiting for you to write a check before He dwells fully within you!

To accomplish the giving of one’s tithe and then feel better about one’s proximity to Jesus is not of faith. Jesus wasn’t crucified, buried, and then raised from the dead so that we could spend the rest of our life here on earth trying our best to get closer to Him.  He did what He did so that we could be where He is NOW—raised and seated with Him.

To practice or preach that tithing is a means by which you receive blessings, intimacy, and nearness to God is nothing more than putting a price tag on God’s presence. This is not of faith.

  1. Because I am not a Levitical priest –

As discussed above, tithing in the Mosaic Law was God’s means for financially supporting the Levitical priests. They were not permitted to own land, etc. The Levites were 100% dependent upon the obedience of the Israelites or else they would starve. I no longer practice nor preach the tithe because I am not a Levitical priest. I am not a descendent of Aaron, Levi, or even Jacob for that matter. This means that, as a pastor, I have complete freedom to own land, to provide for my family however I want, etc. It also means that no one has any legal obligation to give me 10% of their income.

Because I’m not a Levitical priest, I am free to own houses, cars, land, in any way that pleases me. I’m free to take a job with any employer I would desire. There are no restrictions (there may be careers that are more beneficial than others). So if I want to work for a church and draw an income from a church as an employee of that church, then great! However, if I want to be a realtor, a nurse, a lawyer, an engineer, or a taxi driver, I am free!

The only thing I’m not free to do, however, is to put people under a law that they’ve died to in order to manipulate them into giving so that I can benefit from it. There’s nothing grace-based in that!

  1. Because no New Testament apostle teaches the tithe –

I no longer practice nor preach the tithe because no New Testament apostle practiced nor preached the tithe. Don’t you think that, if tithing was such a vital element in our closeness with God that Paul, Peter, John, or James would have mentioned it somewhere in their writings to the early church? I do! Perhaps this is an “argument from silence,” but it is true—the apostles are silent on this! Sure they talk about giving, generosity, helping each other, etc. But none of them even hint at the teaching that I used to practice and preach that one’s obedience to God is determined by whether or not one faithfully gives 10% of income to a local church.

This is very similar to the common teaching of continual forgiveness of sins as I used to practice and preach. For years I would teach that we must confess our sins to God daily in order for Him to forgive us of our sins. Again, to my amazement, the apostles didn’t teach this either! They taught that we have been forgiven, “once and for all!” Take John’s word for it in 1 John 1:9. He says if anyone would “confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness!”  When I was thirteen years old, I began trusting Jesus. When I was thirteen years old I agreed (confessed) with God that I had sin that separated me from Him. Based on 1 John 1:9, that day in 1993, I confessed and God was faithful and just and cleansed me from ALL unrighteousness! How much unrighteousness? ALL!! Just past unrighteousness? NO! ALL unrighteousness! Hallelujah!

I understand that tithing (and continual forgiveness of sins) is taught in the church today (I used to teach it!), but it’s critical to see that the apostles didn’t practice nor preach it. So why would we?

  1. Because I’ve been made obedient from the heart –

Usually, not always, but usually the teaching about tithing is linked somehow to a call for the people of God to be “obedient.” The way I taught it was that you couldn’t possibly be obedient if you were stingy and didn’t give at least 10% to the local church—God’s storehouse. Therefore, by accomplishing the law, I, and those others who did it, became obedient to God by doing so.

But there’s a huge problem with this. Romans 6:17 says that when you are born again, “you became obedient from the heart.” That’s not a typo! Obedience isn’t something you achieve. Obedience is a gift that has been given to you by a hyper-grace God.

Christian, your new heart is obedient! You are not spending the rest of your days on earth trying to bring your heart into conformity to Christ. Your new heart is born of God, compatible with God. Just as Eve was suitable with Adam because she was “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh,” you are now 100% suitable with God because you are “bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh” having been born of Him!

It is my opinion that religion, legalism, law based living (call it what you wish) is anchored in a view that I am still a dirty rotten sinner still at my core. Jesus has saved me, He loves me, but I am, as Martin Luther said, “snow covered dung.” The snow of Jesus’ righteousness covers me, but at my core, I am still unrighteous dung. A scheme of the Enemy is to keep us from seeing the truth of who we are! Yes, we were dung! Yes, our hearts were deceitfully wicked. Our hearts were Jacob. But something happened!

You see, we all believe that Jesus did something “for us” at salvation (and yes, He did!). But Jesus didn’t just do something “for us” at salvation. He did something “TO US:”

  1. He Circumcised us – Colossians 2 reveals to us what the whole circumcision thing of the Old Testament really foreshadows. It was all a shadow of a day that would come when Jesus would cut away the inner man from the outer man. The old inner man that was created in the image of Adam (Genesis 5) was cut away from the flesh. The union of the outer man and the inner man was severed. Sin still lives in the flesh, but it is no longer joined to the inner man.
  2. He killed us – Galatians 2:20 “For I have been crucified with Christ…” After the old heart (the inner man) was cut away from the flesh, it was crucified with Christ. It was killed. It no longer lives. It was buried with Christ. It is dead and gone. Any nature from Adam, any identity from Adam, any connection with Adam totally ended the day you were crucified with Christ. Jesus himself is the “last Adam,” meaning by Him a new people have been created!
  3. He created us new! – 2 Cor 5:17 “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is passed away, behold the new has come.” You are not snow covered dung! You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. You are not a sinner saved by grace. You are a saint—born from the very loins of God Himself. You are not slowly trying to improve who you are. Your old self is dead. You are a new creation. You are obedient from the heart because your new heart is everything God wanted it to be, for He made it!
  1. Because Jesus is my High Priest –

I no longer practice nor preach the tithe because Jesus is my High Priest! Remember, in the Old Testament, the tithe was established to support the Levitical priests for they didn’t own anything and they were in need. Tell me, what need does Jesus have? What need does Jesus have that our 10% is going to supply? According to Paul in Colossians 1, wasn’t it Jesus’ voice, the Word of God, which rang out in eternity past, “Let there be…?” How does our 10% enable the one “who calls into being that which does not exist” to have things He didn’t already have?

How silly I was to have thought that, because I had given my 10% to God, He was now able to do things He couldn’t have before. As I sit here and think about that, it just reveals my ignorance and arrogance!

Jesus’ priesthood came from the priesthood of Melchizedek and not Levi. There are zero instructions anywhere in the Bible to tithe to Melchizedek. Of course, Abram did tithe to Melchizedek, but why? Did he do it because he was commanded to? Did he do it in order to be obedient to Melchizedek? NO! He did it because he wanted to!  

  1. Because we are taught to both “set aside” and even “cast out” the Mosaic Law –

Some of the most scandalous passages in all of the Bible are Galatians 4 and Hebrews 7. In Galatians 4, Paul tells the believers to “cast out” the Mosaic Law! In Hebrews 7, the author speaks of the “setting aside” of the Mosaic Law. You can see why these are so scandalous! Our natural response is something like, “Wait! If we throw away the Mosaic Law, then how will we know how to live? How will we know what to do? How will we…”

Simply put, the Mosaic Law was never given as a guide by which Christians are to live. The Law was/is an excellent tool at doing what it was intended to do! It is the “ministry of death and condemnation” (2 Cor 3). It was designed to lead us to Jesus (Galatians 3:24), but it was never designed to give us life nor manifest life. This is why the Apostles taught to now set it aside and cast it out. It has done its job! It revealed our death and condemnation. It led us to Jesus. We now salute the Law, we thank God for what it did, and we set it aside because it has done its job! It has led us to Jesus!

We now have Jesus living in us! We no longer look to laws written on stone tablets to live. We now live by Jesus Christ within us.

The 1/2 – So how do we live?

Let us listen to Jesus, in His own words, for the answer! “ As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:57). How did Jesus live in this world? By union with and depending upon the Father! How does Jesus tell us how to live? The same way! By union with and depending upon Jesus. Jesus is our example on how to live. As Jesus lived by the Father, we now live by the Son. We don’t live by looking at external stone tablets. We live by looking within and seeing the Christ, Jesus Himself, now abiding in us. One with us…joined to us…suitable—a true divine romance! What love He has for His bride! As we soak up His love for us, we are then able to wring that very love out towards those around us in whatever ways Jesus motivates us to do so.

In the scriptures, 2 Cor 9:7 says we give from our new hearts! Whether it’s money, time, energy, love, support, encouragement, etc., we give from our new hearts! We give from the place where Jesus now dwells. We give as we are being inspired to give as we see the depths of God’s intimate love with us at our core.

To give 10% in order to be “obedient” completely short circuits the glory of what we now have. We don’t have a Law to look at to tell us what to do. We have  Life within us inspiring us at the deepest of levels. How will we ever learn to live by His life within us, if we simply resort to looking at a list of rules to tell us how to live?

Remember the interaction between the Queen of Sheba and Solomon in 1 Kings 10? The Queen had heard reports of how much wealth and wisdom Solomon had acquired. She had heard the stories. She had heard the rumors. But she had never seen it with her own eyes. So she traveled to Jerusalem to see it for herself. She was blown away! She couldn’t believe her own eyes. It was more magnificent, glorious, and elaborate than she ever dreamed. Do you remember what she said? She said, “Behold, the half was not told me.” Not even the half had been told! The reality of Solomon’s kingdom was more than double what she ever had heard or dreamed.

Listen saints! Not even the half has been told of what we now have in Christ, the fullness of the riches of God’s grace that have been lavished upon us, the width, breadth, length, and depth of His love for us, and the sheer radiance of His beauty and grace. NOT EVEN THE HALF HAS BEEN TOLD!

I may be wrong in all of this, but it is my opinion that Christianity is not at all about finding a list of rules in the Bible and trying our best to live by them. Christianity is the life long discovery of the riches of God’s grace that He has already lavished upon us and living in this world of darkness based upon the reality of who we now are and what we now have, fully, in the kingdom of Heaven. We don’t look to laws to discover this. We look to the Christ who lives within us!

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” Hebrews 12

Frequently asked Questions:

1. If I don’t preach tithing, then people will stop giving, won’t they?

Well, it’s likely that the people don’t currently give 10% to start with. Some may, but most don’t. So instead of placing a Law upon free people, how about teaching them who they are now in Christ and trust Christ to inspire them to give. Scripture tells us in 2 Cor 9:7 that God trusts our new hearts to give. Why shouldn’t we trust our new heart if God does?

2. Is there a place for giving to the local church at all?

Sure! But the point is that we don’t promote Law in order to create financial giving. We promote Jesus and invite people to contribute as they desire.

3. What if nobody gives? What then?

Well…I’m not sure! I know one thing for sure. We cannot place God’s sons and daughters under Law in order to create payroll and rent payments. We can certainly reveal the need to the people and encourage them to seek the Lord’s direction, but to use tithing as a form of creating closeness with God, erodes the joy and freedom of the gospel. Personally, I would rather find alternative employment than to put God’s people under Law. I’m not just saying this “theoretically.” I’m, currently, in the process of examining several employment options in the event we don’t receive the funds needed to fund both my salary and the other expenses for our church.

4. Didn’t Jesus promote tithing in Matthew 23:23?

Absolutely He did! He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law…” Galatians 4 tells us that Jesus was born of a woman born “under the law” so that he could redeem those who are under it. Jesus preached the law a lot! Why not! The law is good! It serves death and condemnation, and it leads people to Jesus. Why not promote it! But Jesus never promotes any law based living to any born again Christian. Why? Because Christians are not under law but under GRACE!

Also notice what Jesus calls tithing. He lumps tithing in with “the law.” The Pharisees and scribes were doing the easy aspects of the law (tithing from their gardens), but they were not doing the harder parts of the law.

5. Is it really that big of a deal?

Well, Jesus said that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins. To do so would be to ruin them both. The new wine is the New Covenant of the good news of the Grace of God. We cannot put that into the old wineskins of the Old Covenant of Law. It ruins them both. God wants them both preserved. God doesn’t want the Law’s ministry of death and condemnation to be watered down. The LETTER KILLS. For it is the law that leads people to Jesus. Likewise, God doesn’t want the New Covenant of Grace to be mixed with Law for that totally ruins the work Jesus has done of giving us righteousness, holiness, life, etc. as a gift. The goal is to put old wine in old wineskins and new wine in new wineskins so that the two never mix.

Many will say, “Shouldn’t we balance grace with law so that people don’t go crazy in their sins?” I’ve heard it said well, “What man calls balance, God calls mixture!” Adding law to grace doesn’t curb sinning! In fact, Paul says that law increases sinning (Romans 5:20). It is Grace Himself —Jesus Christ— that instructs us on how to say no to sin (Titus 2:11-14)

 

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Nine and 1/2 reasons why I no longer preach nor practice “The Tithe!”

“Fall From Grace?”

falling_from_grace_cd_cover_by_mediadesignGalatians 5:1-12
No matter who you are, whether you are a Christian or not, it is very likely that you do not want your picture on the internet with the caption below reading, “YOUR NAME has fallen from grace!”  Do you?  Of course not!  Who would?

You can do a simple Google search of “Fall From Grace” and immediately your browser is filled with 17.3 million hits in less than .41 seconds!  That’s a lot of falling from grace!  The Google hits are about politicians, religious leaders, and others who have sinned, been caught, and suffering the fallout of their poor choices.  In general, the term “fall from grace” seems to be when someone commits a sin that society has labeled to be unacceptable.

But what is “Falling from Grace?”  What does it look like?  How do we know if we’ve done it?  Is there any coming back from it if we do it?  These questions and many more will be our focus today.  “Falling from Grace” is not a made up term.  It’s right from the Bible! In fact, it’s in our passage this week in Galatians 5:4 “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  There it is!  Unlike some other religious mumbo jumbo, this isn’t a made up phrase.  It’s actually in the Bible and apparently the Christians in Galatia have done it–they have fallen from grace.

Before we dive into what “Falling from Grace” is, let us first make sure we know what “Grace” is.  Grace is much more than a theological doctrine.  It’s much more than a point on a sermon outline.  It’s much more than a teaching.  Grace is really a Person!  Jesus Christ is the very personification of grace.  In fact, when introducing Jesus to his readers, the Apostle John says that Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and that from Jesus comes “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  So, it seems, to receive Jesus is to receive grace.  Grace, by definition, is free.

A good definition of grace is “getting something that you did not earn.”  If a guilty prisoner, who is facing execution, is suddenly freed by his governor, this is an act of grace.  While many may disagree with the action of the governor, he gave that prisoner something he didn’t deserve.  He had earned his punishment, but he was given freedom.  By the way, mercy is the idea of “not getting something that you did earn.”  The prisoner deserved his execution, but the governor showed mercy by not giving him what he deserved.  But the governor went beyond mercy and extended grace!  He not only withheld something that he did deserve, he gave him something that he also did not deserve.

It’s not fair!

Grace is simply not fair.  It is not fair for us to receive what we did not earn.  None of us deserves forgiveness, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves freedom from law, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves God, but God has graciously granted us with Himself.  We all were that guilty prisoner–guilty before we were even born because of our ancestor, Adam, but God, being rich in both grace and mercy, has given us things we will never be able to deserve.

Grace is always greater.

One of the amazing realities of God’s grace is that it is greater than all our sinning.  Look at Romans 5:20 real quickly, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”  Apparently God gave the Law to Moses so that sinning would increase (ever read that before?).  Now why in the world would God want sin to increase?  Because God wanted to show off the full extent of His radical grace towards sinners!  Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!  Sin is no match for the grace of God.  In fact the phrase “all the more” is the Greek prefix “hyper!”  God’s grace is “HYPER!”  Just like the hyperactive kid in school who is always more active than the other kids in class, God’s hyper-grace is always more than sin.  This means that if you were to take all the sins of your life, from childhood to death, and add them up, you’d get a cardinal number.  Something like 78,301 (for example!).  The Bible is saying that God’s grace is always greater than your measly 78,301 sins.  God’s grace isn’t just 78,302.  How much grace does God have?  Does he just have one more grace than you have sins?  That would be enough, but is that all the grace God has?  Well, think about how big Jesus is.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.  God is not even measurable.  Our best attempt at measuring God is to say that God is infinite.  He has no beginning and no end.  God has no limitations whatsoever.  So if God is infinitely large (immeasurable) and if Jesus is this God, and if Jesus is full of grace (John 1:14), then how much grace does God have?  Did you follow that? If not, here’s the answer: God’s grace is unlimited.  It is as immeasurable as He himself is immeasurable!  So God doesn’t have just one more grace than you have sins.  God has an immeasurable supply of this grace, and you will always have a finite number of sins!

Now watch this!  Take your 78,301 sins and multiply them by the eight billion people that are alive right now, plus the billions upon billions from previous generations, plus the countless sins of future generations!  Think of that number!  It may even be larger than the National Debt!  But guess what?  If Romans 5:20 is true, God’s hyper-grace still wins!  God’s grace will always outweigh all the sinning we could ever do as humanity.  Aren’t you glad about God’s hyper-grace?  I am!  What if His grace wasn’t “hyper?”  What if it was “typical” or “average?”  If God’s grace was not hyper and was limited, then there would be a very real possibility that we could out sin God’s grace.  However, God has rigged it so that would never be possible.  God’s grace hyper abounds above any sinning we could ever do!  It seems God even increased sinning by giving the Law to show just how hyper his grace really is!

God’s promise of Grace!

One more quick thought on what God’s grace even is before we jump into the idea of “falling from grace.”  God’s grace is all based on a promise.  If you haven’t read through the previous blog/devotionals in Galatians, let me encourage you to do so.  This free gift of forgiveness of all our sins, freedom from the Law, freedom from the flesh, our new life in Christ, intimacy with God himself, and so much more, is all based on a promise that God made to Jesus.  The question really is, “Can God lie?”  Because if He can lie, then why in the world am I even typing this and why are you even wasting your time reading anything that is based on what God has said?  However, if God cannot lie, as Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 both say, then we can take what He says to the bank.  One of the most unbelievable things that God has said is found in Jeremiah 31.  We have talked already, and will talk more, about verses 31-34 where God promises the New Covenant of Grace that will be nothing like the Old Covenant of Law, where God will be intimate with people, where God’s desires will be etched in our new hearts, and where He will forgive all our iniquities and remember our sins NO MORE!  This new covenant started when the one who made the covenant died.  This was when Jesus, God in the flesh, hung on a tree plunging the entire human race into death so that He could begin a whole new race–a holy nation a royal priesthood, no longer from the First Adam, but now from the Last Adam–Jesus Christ Himself.  But I want to look at the next couple of verses–verse 35-37.

In verses 35 and 36, God promises that the very order of the universe would have to end before He would end His relationship with us.  The very earth would have to stop rotating.  The moon would have to stop revolving.  The seasons would have to end, on and on and on, in order for God to renege on His promise, and you would stop being His special treasure.  Now let me ask you, “If the order to the universe stopped, would we have some major problems on our hands already?”  Even more dramatic, verse 37 says that the universe would have to be measured and the core of the earth would have to be traversed before God would cast you off because of something you have done.  The problem with measuring the universe is that every time we get a bigger telescope to see further, we see even further!  There’s no end to the universe.  How do you measure something that has no end?  The problem with traversing the core of the earth is this substance called liquid hot magma!  You can’t walk through it and live.  So here is what God is saying, “In the new covenant of grace, I will kick you out from my presence because of something you have done if you are able to measure the immeasurable universe and if you are able to traverse the untraversable core of the earth.”  To which we say, “But, God, wait a minute, we can’t measure the immeasurable universe, and we can’t traverse the untraversable core of the earth!”  To which God says, “Bingo kid!  That is a taste of what My grace is really all about!  You will never fall from me because of something you have done because I took everything you’d ever do and destroyed it when I destroyed Jesus on the cross.  You sins are now impotent!”

This means that God’s New Covenant of Grace is not based on my behavior but based on His unfathomable, unimaginable, immeasurable grace!

So what does “Fall From Grace” mean then?

We have to see that our sinning is not the catalyst for this fall from grace that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:4.  If we can sin our way out of God’s family, then what was the cross for?  Why would Jesus have done what He did, if our sinning can undo it?  No, our sinning isn’t what causes this “fall from grace.”

Look at Galatians 5:4 again.  Earlier I quoted it as, “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  I intentionally left out a part and put in the “…” things.  The part that is represented by the “…” is very, very important!  Here’s the whole verse, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Whoa, does that change things!  God’s system of relating to humanity has changed.  It changed from a system of rules and laws (the Old Covenant of Law) to a new system of grace (The New Covenant).  There is now only one way to relate to God–to connect with Him.  It is by hearing what Jesus did for us and then believing the news!  This is how God continuously supplies His Spirit to us–by hearing and believing.  Grace is channeled to you by your hearing and your believing.  This is God’s new, perhaps controversial, way.  But so many people were, and still are, interested in relating to God based on the old way of living by rules, laws, and regulations.  The thinking is that if we can perform certain ways, then we can better relate and better connect with God.  That sounds fine and dandy, but the problem is that isn’t the way God set up this new system to work.  It isn’t performing a list of rules.  It’s hearing and believing.

These Galatians had been distracted from the new way of grace to the old way of behavior.  They had been invited to fall into God’s grace, but they were opting to do the opposite and fall away from God’s grace.  If someone seeking to be made right with God by law, falls out of grace, what is he falling towards?  He is falling toward laws, rules, and regulations.  Being perfectly right with God by simply hearing and believing seemed too simple.  There had to be more.  There had to be something they brought to the table.  By falling towards law-based rightness with God, they were falling away from grace.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t fall both into grace and into law at the same time!  To fall into one you fall away from the other.  God’s invitation is for you to fall out of law-based living and into His grace!

So how does someone “Fall Out of Grace?”

We can fall out of grace by becoming distracted that our behavior, whether good or bad, is able to affect our intimacy with God.  We sit before God’s throne of Grace with confidence not in our ability to do or not do, but rather with confidence that this whole thing was His idea and not ours.

It was His idea that all our sins be placed on His Son and taken away from us.  It was His idea that we die with Jesus so that we could be raised with Jesus.  It was His idea that we be free from a system of rules, laws, and obedience to lists.  It was all His idea.  Now what if we think we know better than God?  What if we look at God’s idea of grace and say that it isn’t good enough, that it is too simple, or that it is just too good to be true.  Would we not be calling God’s intellect, wisdom, and character into question?  Would we not be saying that we know a better way than God?  Humanity has been saying it knows of a better way than God ever since the Garden of Eden, and God has graciously shown us time and time again that Daddy truly knows best!

So, do you find yourself leaning back on your flesh, your performance, and your track record to ensure you are right with God?  If so, I think Paul is saying you are falling away from grace.  If your performance were a factor in this new and better way, then, let’s face it, you’d be toast.

Your sins deserve death.  Jesus died your death!  You now have His life!  That, my friends, is grace.  Let us not fall away from this!

So what do I need to do now?

Are you worried that if you take your performance off the table that sin will creep in?  You’re not alone!  So many that Paul tried to share this better way of Grace thought the same thing.  But here’s the deal.  If improved performance is a desire of yours–you want to stop that same old sinning you have been doing forever–then there’s really only one option.  You must hear the invitation God has given and believe Him.  He’s inviting you to trade your fixation.  Instead of being fixated with your behavior, with your performance, and with your track record, God wants you to become fixated on Jesus’ behavior, Jesus’ performance, and Jesus’ track record.  You see, that is what God is fixated on!  God is fixated on His Son and all those who are in His Son!  If you are in Christ, then you are in the behavior, the performance, and the track record of Jesus Christ himself.  His whole identity is yours now.  You’ll never improve your behavior by being fixated on your behavior.  But as you become fixated on Christ, guess what actually starts coming forth from your body?  Christ!  You become an actual vessel through which Christ Himself now manifests Himself into this world (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

I Cor. 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Are you concerned about your thought life because it would be the most embarrassing thing in the world for someone to know what you think at times? Consider Jesus’ wisdom and thoughts, because you now have His very mind.

Are you concerned about your behavior because it’s all over the map?  Consider Jesus’ righteousness, because you have become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)  That means you equal Jesus’ righteousness!

Are you concerned about your sanctification because you think it’s some sort of process that you’re not good at?  Consider Jesus’ sanctification, because He has become your sanctification.  That means you are actually as sanctified as Jesus is sanctified.

Are you concerned about your abundance of sinning, thinking it will jeopardize your gift of salvation?  Do you have a list of “but what if I’s….?”  But what if I sin the same sin over and over? But what if I get divorced?  But what if I ….  Consider Jesus’ redemption, because He himself has redeemed you.  How saved are you? Are you saved somewhat?  Are you saved unless you sin?  Are you saved unless you sin the same sin over and over?  Consider Jesus’ redemption of you and the truth of Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives…”  He has saved you completely and forever!  In fact, the duration of your very salvation is not tied to your life in this flesh at all.  According to Hebrews 7:25, what is your the duration of your salvation tied to?  It’s tied to Jesus’ life.  Since He lives forever, you will be saved forever!

But don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 5:1-13 for yourself>

Question to Consider:

  1. What would it say about God’s grace if “falling from grace” means that you can lose your salvation because of your sinning?
  2. Upon reading Galatians 5, and the rest of the New Covenant promises, why do you think there is such a fixation on the ability to lose one’s salvation?
  3. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  Ultimately what must break in order for that seal to break?
  4. If we can lose our salvation by something we have done, then what does that say about the work of Christ on the cross?
  5. In what tangible ways is your life bettered by knowing God will never remove you from Himself because of something you do?
  6. The devil even used scripture to question Jesus, don’t you think he can do the same today with you?  There are a few passages that always seem to be used to promote loss of salvation.  Hebrews 6 is usually one of them.  Take some time and read Hebrews 1 through 6 to see if Hebrews 6 is promoting the “insecurity” of a believer or perhaps the exact opposite!  Remember, any scripture can be taken out of its context to try to communicate something it actually doesn’t.
“Fall From Grace?”

Throw away what??

cdd6c20d2259d8c157ca8cdf999e3704Galatians 4:21-31

This is one of my most favorite church memes!  I can’t tell you how many times I have invited someone to come with me to church and quickly the conversation goes to how there are so many hypocrites in church, and so they don’t want to go!  If we used that same logic in other areas of life, we’d never go to the dentist because there are people there with messed up teeth.  We’d never go to the doctor because there are so many sick people.  We’d never go to school because there are so many people there who don’t already know the answer.  And, as the graphic here says, we’d never go to the gym because there are “out of shape people” there!

Of course, there are people at church who don’t have everything together!  Thank goodness!  I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a church where everyone is “picture perfect.”  Church life is messy.  In my short ministry, I’ve tried to help people through teenage pregnancies, ugly divorces, husbands leaving their wives after twenty plus years, parents watching their children really struggle with gender identity, and so much more.  Church life is messy!  Yes, we have died to sin and are alive to God!  Yes, we are born from above and no longer from below. Yes, we are the very righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  Absolutely.  But sin hasn’t died!  Sin is still alive and well in our mortal bodies–in our flesh.  To suggest that any Christian will always walk in the reality of his or her new life is unfair and unrealistic.  We certainly desire to walk in the reality of who we are.  It’s our ambition and one of our greatest desires.  But as long as we live in these bodies where sin still lives, we’re going to have good days and bad days!  We’ll walk in the victory that the Lord provides, but many days we won’t.  When we don’t, Peter says that we have become blind and shortsighted having forgotten our purification from our old sins (2 Peter 1:9).  This is why we are so passionate at Life Journey about reminding us all of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and now who we are in Him!  If we sin by forgetting, let us be reminded all the more!

In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul addresses this very issue of hypocrisy.  You see, many of the gentiles in Galatia had been duped and distracted by thinking their rightness with God was being managed by their ability to keep the Law of Moses.  The Law of Moses is a combination of some 613 laws that God gave and Moses recorded them in the first five books of the Bible.  The most famous of these 613 laws are, of course, the Ten Commandments.  These commandments were very special in that they were given to Moses on Mount Sinai just after the Israelites were successfully delivered from their slavery in Egypt.  Of all the 613 laws, these ten were engraved on stones.  Sometimes they are even referred to as the “stone tablets.”   In fact, of all the 613 laws of the Old Testament, just a portion of these laws were delivered while Moses and God were on Mount Sinai together.  However, because of the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai has come to represent the entire law.

So far in Galatians, Paul has been puzzled by what the Galatians were doing.  They had embraced their freedom in Christ, but they had tossed their freedom aside for rules–specifically the 613 laws of Israel.  They had been distracted from the truth of Jesus to embrace Jesus plus Judaeo rules, laws, and customs.  

So, get this picture, Galatian gentiles, who were never ever even invited to the Old Covenant Law-based system, are putting themselves under that old system in hopes of getting more than what they have freely been given already in Christ.  As we saw last week, the Old Covenant was only offered to a specific people group, the Jews, for a limited specific period of time, from Mount Sinai until the promised seed–Jesus–would come to die.  That’s it!  The Mosaic Law was only for that specific group for that specific time! None of the Jews before Sinai were bound to the Mosaic Law!  If you were to ask Joseph or any of his brothers, or any of the subsequent generations enslaved in Egypt about the Ten Commandments, they would have looked at you with all sorts of confusion!  They were Jews, but they were before the Law was added.  In the same exact way, you should be able to ask any Jew after Jesus about how they are doing with the Ten Commandments or any of the Laws of Moses, and they should respond with the same confused look because the Law was added before Jesus.

Jesus brings freedom!  But instead of the Jews embracing their freedom in Christ, as Paul did, the Jews were demanding that gentiles be bound to the same Jewish Law that they themselves could never accomplish!  What irony!  So here you have these distracted and confused Judaizers (Jews who are demanding that gentiles become Jews in order to truly be saved) distracting and confusing gentiles!

But the Lord had given such great clarity on this very subject matter to the Apostle Paul that Paul even used the very words in the Old Covenant to show that the Old Covenant itself was to be set aside.  You see, the gentiles (and the Judaizers for that matter) were throwing away something.  They were throwing away their freedom that Christ had given them. As we saw in last week’s message, “To reject our freedom is to reject our Jesus, for Jesus set us free.”  Inspired by the very Spirit of God, Paul calls these gentiles who have tossed aside their freedom for performance based intimacy with God what they actually are–HYPOCRITES.

Paul says, “You who wish to be under the Law, have you not heard the Law?”  It’s like one of the worst “gotcha” moments ever!  Most of these gentile believers in Galatia were illiterate Phrygian slaves.  Usually, we’d expect Paul to say “have you not read the Law,” but the fact is they couldn’t read!  Just as people were reading the very letter Paul sent them, they had to depend upon someone else to read the Law to them.  Here’s the problem: do you think the ones who were trying to put the gentiles under the Law were eager to read the entire Law to them?  I don’t think so!  Not only was the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) very long to read, but, and here’s Paul’s whole point, if you were to read or listen to the Law you’d know that it is not compatible with the New Covenant of Grace that was promised long before the Law and that Jesus had come to establish.

For example, both Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 28 outline the terms of the Old Covenant.  The terms were God would do His part, IF the Jews did their part.  Now I know that many people and denominations think that is the way the New Covenant works, but we know better.  The terms of the New Covenant are God knows we are unable to do our part and so He didn’t give us a part.  God did both His part, AND our part in the man Jesus Christ.  The two covenants couldn’t be any different.  In fact, God promised they would be totally opposite in Jeremiah 31:31-34.  He promised that the New Covenant would be nothing like the Old Covenant.  The Old Covenant had Ten Commandments etched on stone revealing the desires of God. In the New Covenant, the very desires of God are etched on our new hearts in the very person of Jesus Christ–God Himself–now with us!

Paul’s point is that if the Judaizers were honest with the Galatians, they would have read the Law to them, and it would have revealed that the Covenant of Law and the Covenant of Grace are not compatible whatsoever.  Jesus said they were not compatible when talking about new wine and old wineskins.  To mix the two is to destroy them both.

The absolute crescendo to Chapter 4 is that there is something we are to throw away, and it isn’t our freedom in Christ!  Paul reveals the true hidden meaning between the lives of some historical figures in the Old Testament.  Abraham had two sons.  One was with the slave, Hagar.  She bore Ishmael.  The other son, the promised son, was with the free woman, Sarah. She bore Isaac.  Paul says that Hagar, the slave, represents Mount Sinai.  Mount Sinai is where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  Sarah represents Jerusalem above which is free.  Ishmael is a picture of the works of our flesh.  Abraham produced Ishmael by his own effort with Hagar.  Isaac is a picture of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  You see, Sarah was barren.  She couldn’t have children, and God promise was that she would.  Abraham tried to help God out by cutting corners to bring about God’s promise. However, God didn’t, and still doesn’t, need any help to bring about His promise.  In Genesis 21:10 Sarah told Abraham to “cast out the bondwoman (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael)” because Ishmael was bullying Isaac.

Paul sees this as a picture.  The slavery of Hagar corresponds to the Mosaic Law and the slavery those under it are in.  The works of Abraham’s flesh, Ishmael, corresponds to the works produced by this bondage to the Law.  Paul quotes Sarah and says that we are to throw away the Law and the works of our flesh because we are not a part of the Law, nor the flesh, any longer.  We are from a whole other origin now. We are actually from Jerusalem above.

Just as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, that flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to spirit, we have been born anew from the very Spirit of God.  Our bondage to Law and the works of our flesh have been severed from our new life in Christ.  We are to throw them away.  

As controversial as it sounds, God is telling us in Galatians 4 that we no longer look to the Ten  Commandments for life.  We look to Jesus!  Jesus, not the stone tablets, is our life. Jesus, not the Law, is our righteousness.  Jesus, not the Torah, lives in us.  Jesus, not mere knowledge of good and evil, is our guide.  Jesus, not rules and regulations, is our holiness.  Jesus, not our track record, is our glory.  Jesus, not our ability, is our guarantee of perfect intimacy with God.  Jesus…always Jesus.  Jesus plus nothing!

What does this do to you?  When you read the Holy Spirit penning these words through Paul that there is something to throw away, but it isn’t our liberty, but rather it’s Mount Sinai and the works of the flesh, what goes through your mind?

Let me ask you a question, which would you rather have, 613 (not just 10) Laws on paper for you to try your best to live up to, or the very One who perfectly fulfilled all of them living in you?  You see, whether your list of “rules and regulations” have 613 items, 10 items, or even 2 items, the great error is that we think they are in our lives for us to live by them.  Remember Galatians 3:12, “the law is not of faith.”  If we choose to live by a code of conduct, a set of expectations, a list of what’s good and what’s bad, we are not living by faith.  We are living by sight.  There’s but one way to please God–without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Here’s the invitation to you, throw away your lists.  Cast off your codes.  Trash your expectations.  Get your eyes off of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and set your eyes on the tree of Life–Jesus Christ Himself!  Faith is messy at times.  We will all stumble in many ways.  But one thing is certain, if you throw off your liberty in Jesus, you have thrown off the wrong thing!

But don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 4:21-31 for yourself>

Questions to Consider:

  1. If you have ever read through Galatians before, what other conclusion have you drawn other than Paul’s command to throw the law and the works of our flesh away?
  2. Do you see the hypocrisy of embracing the very thing that instructs you to throw it away?
  3. In Community Group one night I asked, “Why are we so scared to live by the life of Christ in us?”  A fantastic answer was, “We underestimate the new life we now have.” What about you?  Do you fear that if you throw away the things you do that make you think you are good with God, that will lead you into anarchy?  If you start living by your new life–the very life of Christ–do you think you will end up in anarchy?
  4. When you hear Paul’s command to throw away law-based living, do you wonder what you are to replace it with?  What if there isn’t something to replace it with but rather Someone, Jesus, has already taken up residence in you since you started trusting Him and He’s primed and ready to start living through you as you walk by faith in Him?
  5. God demanded your faith in order for you to be saved. He demands nothing further now.  Why do you think it is so hard to live by faith that Jesus can actually live the Christian life through us better than we could ever do it on our own?
Throw away what??

Son or Slave…which are you?

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Galatians 4:1-20

Slavery…what a terrible reality.

Slavery still exists in a variety of ways in our broken world.  Years ago, I was introduced to “Run For Their Lives.”  It’s a movement to raise money to set women and children free from sex slavery around the world.  Just because we can’t see it from our front porch here in Crozet, VA, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in large volume.  In fact, even here in North America, the abolition of slavery is relatively young.  There were 371 years of slavery from Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  However, there have only been 153 from the Emancipation Proclamation until today–not even half the time of official slavery on our continent.

Galatians 4 introduces us to two extremes that could not be further apart–slavery and sonship. Upon our physical birth we were born as slaves.  Not necessarily as slaves to someone else, but slaves nonetheless.  We were born as slaves to both sin and the law.  This internal law (aka “morality code”) is the remnants of our mother and father’s decision to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Before they ate, they drew their value and life from God Himself.  After they ate–after they sinned–they now had a knowledge that they didn’t have before.  As Paul speaks of in Romans 2, all of the sudden their conscience was either defending them or accusing them based on what they did.  They saw each other naked and this new found slavery demanded them to cover up and hide.  They had been naked the entire time, but all of the sudden they had become slaves–slaves to the knowledge of right and wrong.

It’s hard to see the knowledge of right and wrong as a slave master.  It is.  We must reread Genesis 2 and 3.  God said when their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, they would die.  We tend to think that the knowledge of good and evil is the goal of the christian life.  We try our best in our churches to simply instill principles for godly living, to help define what is good and what is evil, etc, so that our people would do what is good and not what is evil.  That sounds like a good thing to do doesn’t it?  Again, if it’s such a good thing, then why was the consequence of obtaining this knowledge of good and evil death?

If you fast forward numerous generations to the life of Moses, we read about how God put to tablet and parchment this knowledge of good and evil that had been in humanities’ hearts since Adam and Eve, into what we know of as the Mosaic Law.  No Jew was surprised at any of the Ten Commandments.  This law had been written in their hearts their entire lives, but was now manifested in a written code.  For example, murder was already wrong before God said, “Thou shall not murder.” We know this because when Moses murdered the Egyptian (Exodus 2), he hid the body and then ran for his own life.  How did he know it was wrong?  The knowledge of good and evil was written on his heart.  Every one of us experiences this same thing.  Our conscience alternatively accuses us (when we do wrong) and defends us (when we do right)– Romans 2:15.

Is this so bad?  Why is this a big deal?  Why is this “slavery?”

Well, here’s the deal.  Our slavery to this knowledge of good and evil results in us viewing everything by what this slave master says of us.  If we do good, we feel good.  If we do evil, we feel evil.  This is a dangerous slavery.

If, before you were born again, you did some really excellent things, maybe you volunteered, maybe you took in foster kids, etc, the result tends to be one where we determine our intrinsic goodness based on the actions we’ve done.  Our internal slavemaster–the conscience–is defending us in these times.  It’s telling us, “Look at you!  Way to go!  You’re not bad at all.  You’re a really good person.  You are good!”  There’s no denying that the activity is great!  But the slavery is to then determine the reality of our compatibility with God based on our good behavior.  This is dangerous.  We will lose each time.  As God told Adam and Eve, this slavery brings death.

Let’s look at the other side.  Conversely, if you are now a born again believer with a new human spirit birthed from God Himself and you royally mess up, the result tends to be one where we determine our intrinsic goodness based on the actions we’ve just done.  Our internal slavemaster–the conscience–is now accusing us.  It’s telling us, “Look at you! Look at what you’ve just done.  Look at how huge that sin was.  Look at how ugly, wicked, and debased that was.  How can you be right with God now?  How can you ever even think of being right with God in the future?”  Look, there’s no denying the behavior was wicked and horrible, but the slavery is to then determine the reality of our compatibility with God based on the wicked behavior.  This is dangerous.  We will lose each time when we listen to the slavemaster of the conscience (aka the law) that is written in our minds and thoughts.

The slavery is the slavery of determining who you are based on your actions.  The truth is we are who we are based on our birth.  If we are in Adam, it doesn’t matter the “good or the evil,” we are incompatible with God.  Conversely, if we are in Christ, the “good or the evil” we do does not determine if we are compatible with God.  We aren’t less compatible or more based on our behavior through that old slavemaster, the law, says so.

Why is this so hard to see?

One of the reasons this slavery to the knowledge of good and evil is so hard to see is because most of us don’t even know we are enslaved.  Most of us have become so accustomed to determining our fellowship with God by what our old slavemaster says that we can’t imagine what it would be like any other way.

Harriet Tubman is quoted as having said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  You see, by the time of the Civil War, many slaves had not only been slaves their entire lives, but their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and even beyond that had been slaves their entire lives.  Slavery was the only thing they knew.  Tubman’s frustration is that these “thousand more” didn’t realize the condition they were truly in because they had never experienced what freedom could be.

As Paul writes this letter to the Galatians, it’s important to remember that the majority of the christians in Galatia were also multi-generational slaves.  And here is where we find the majority of Christians today–living as slaves though they have actually been set free.  I have no scientific data, but I would easily guess that eight out of ten christians believe that their conscience in them is a good measuring tool to help them determine their fellowship with God.  If their conscience is accusing them, they must have slid from God some.  If their conscience is defending them, they must have slid a little closer.

This behavior based fellowship with God is the very thing Paul is so livid about.  The Galatians had started off so well, but then the Judaizers had come to town and resurrected their slavery to the knowledge of good and evil.  Paul’s whole point of Galatians 4:1-20 is to remind them, and us today too, of:  1. what Jesus actually accomplished,  2. which Spirit we now have (one of slavery or one of sonship), and ultimately  3. how that so drastically affects our lives today here and now.

  1. What did Jesus actually accomplish?

As we’ve already said, we were born under this law of slavery to the knowledge of good and evil.  This was put to tablet and parchment with Moses and the Israelites to show them and us, our true condition and to lead us to Jesus (see 3:15-29).  Now that we are clear on our inability to be compatible with God because of the 613 boney fingers of the Law condemning our every wrong action, we need Someone to rescue us from it.

Enter Jesus!  Jesus was born under this same curse of law so that He might actually redeem us who were under its curse.  Galatians 4:4-5 says that he did this so that we could go from slaves to this law to actual sons of God!  Think of what that means.  Are we slaves of God or sons of God?

  1. Which Spirit we now have (one of slavery or one of sonship)?

A slave is simply always doing whatever the master says to do.  There’s no fellowship, just commands to live by.  Any fellowship that is developed between the slave and the master is dependent up on the slave’s ability to perform what the master wants, when he wants it, how he wants it.

Now think of a son!  A father creates his son.  When a father is staring into the face of his son, he is seeing himself as his very genes now make up his son.  Before the son could ever do good or bad, obey or disobey, the father loves his son, defends his son, and puts his own life on the line for his son.  Sure a father leads, guides, and instructs his son, but in a completely different way from a slave.   A slave obeys in order to be right with the master.  A son obeys because he is loved by his father.

Paul says we have been given the very Spirit of Jesus into our new hearts by which we cry out “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6).  God has given us the very Spirit of His own Son so that we could be sons of God just as Jesus is the Son of God.  “Abba” is the Aramaic way to say “dadda” or “poppa.”  It is oozing with intimacy.  One of the most monumental parenting moments for most parents is when their toddler starts saying, “Momma” or “Dadda.”   We love to hear our babies call out our names.  That same Spirit is given to us from God.

Far too often we see God merely as our Master instead of our “Dadda.”  I know I used to think it was irreverent to consider God my “Dadda” to the point where I even corrected a teenager who once started off a prayer by saying, “Hi Daddy…” If this is so irreverent, then why would God Himself give us the very Spirit of His Son through which we now cry out, “Daddy!”  It seems to me that He’s done this so that we can actually walk each and every day in actual fellowship and intimacy with God–on our “best” days and on our “worst” days!

  1. How does this so drastically affect our lives today here and now?

How do you pray?  Do you pray in such a way that you think you’re speaking to a slavemaster or to daddy?  Do you worry with what you say, how you say it, and whether or not He’s even listening?  Do you feel like you have to pray in such a way that you say good things about Him before you would ever think to ask something from Him (this is how I was taught to pray)?  Do you feel like you have to clear the air with all your wrong-doings before He’ll listen to you?

You may be able to ascertain how you view God (slavemaster vs daddy) by how you pray to Him.  If we feel like we have to keep an appointment, follow certain formulas, and never ever ever fall asleep while praying, you may be seeing God as a slavemaster.  However, if you’re honest, if you talk to Him like you talk to a friend or like your own dad, if you share the deepest secrets of your heart because you know how much your heart matters to Him, if you know that expressing your fears, hopes, dreams, concerns, troubles, temptations, and even sins with Him will never change your intimacy with Him, you may be seeing God as your true “Dadda!”

Seeing God as your “Dadda” doesn’t just affect your conversations with Him.  It affects your walk with other brothers and sisters here in life today.  Think about it, if you are growing more and more in love with God because of the revelation of His love for you, then what happens in your love towards other believers when you realize God loves them just as much as He loves you?  You will naturally love the ones that your “Dadda” loves.  His love is in you!

Look at Galatians 4:12-20!  When the Galatians were clearly seeing God as their “Dadda” back when Paul first presented Jesus to them, what did they do?  They served the needs of Paul as if Paul were an angel.  Paul showed up beaten, bloodied, and bruised from both robbers and being beaten by the Jews.  The response from the young Galatian believers was pure love. No one instructed them to love Paul.  They just did it naturally as they realized how much God loved them and how much He loved Paul.  They were even willing to pluck their eyes out and give them to him. I’m not sure about you, but that’s love!  This love doesn’t come from a relationship to a slavemaster. It comes from intimacy with Daddy!

Don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 4:12-20 on your own!

Questions to Consider:

  1. Is it possible that you are living still enslaved to the conscience’s approval and accusations?  If so, why?
  2. What would specifically happen in your conversations with God if you were to operate from the Spirit of sonship you have been given?
  3. Have you seen your love towards other believers as a command to obey or as the overflow of God’s love towards both you and them?
  4. Why do you think God wants you to live free from the approval and accusation of the conscience?
  5. If God wanted you to live as if you were a slave to either Him or to the knowledge of good and evil, why would He have given you the Spirit of sonship?
  6. Look at Galatians 4:19, in the context of Galatians, what does it look like for Christ to be formed in your life? Is this simply salvation or is this living by the righteousness of Christ Himself?
  7. Do you live in a slavery to the knowledge of good and evil and are unwilling to live in the freedom we now have in Christ because you simply don’t realize you are living as a slave?  Would you be willing to ask God to reveal any slavery in which you may be living?  If He wants you to live as a son, don’t you think He’ll show you?
  8. Do you see freedom from the knowledge of good and evil (aka. the law) as an invitation to anarchy?  To what is God truly inviting you?
Son or Slave…which are you?

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!

 

Which came first, The New Covenant or the Old?

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

2014_08_03-the-just-shall-live-by-faith-580x200

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?