October 9, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 1)

Submitted by Timothy R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 1:1-12

  • Reflect on Apostle Paul’s sense of identity and calling.  What is the relationship between wanting the approval of men and being a “servant of Christ”?

Paul had a very clear sense of identity and personal calling from God. As he repeats a couple of times in this short text, he did not receive his calling as an apostle from men but from Jesus Christ and God the Father (v.1). And furthermore he cites that the gospel he preached was one that he received personally through a revelation of Jesus Christ (v.12)

Paul was deeply convicted that both the apostleship and the gospel he received were personally given to him by Jesus. And from these convictions, there was a sense of gratitude towards Jesus as seen in his description of Jesus as the One “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” For Paul, it seemed to be very personal. It was not some abstract theological truths that he was responding to. But rather he felt a personal indebtedness and sense of obligation to the One who died for him and called him.

The relationship between wanting the approval of man and being a servant of Christ is one of mutual exclusion. As he states in v.10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

So in v.10, Paul makes it very clear that if he were still trying to please other people then that would automatically exclude him from being a servant of Christ. When I think about the practical implications of both, I see why this is the case. If I am trying to please man, then I will say things and do things that I think will win me approval of the people around me. My highest priority will be impression management, always trying to guess what people are thinking of me and trying to get them to think more favorably of me.  Then virtues like love, generosity, honesty, integrity, truth, character will not be important. As long as I can get people to think that I possess these qualities then that would be good enough. In contrast, if I am striving to win the approval of God, then I will strive to actually cultivate these qualities. It won’t matter if others think that I possess these things if don’t really. What will matter the most is the fact that God sees, and that God sees if I am striving to be honest, truthful, sacrificial and to obedient to Him in all areas. So whether I am striving to win the approval of man, or to win the approval of God, it will have dramatically different practical implications in my life.  

  • Whose approval am I seeking?

Honestly, this area is a big struggle for me. By nature, I am a people pleaser and I want people to think well of me. The list of people that I want to please seem never ending.  When I was growing up, I wanted to win the approval of my friends, classmates and teachers. After I graduated, I sought the approval of my boss and my co-workers at work. Now that I am married and a father, I want my wife to think of me as a loving husband and my children to view me as a good father. The older I get, the list of people who I am tempted to try to please only seem to grow longer.

Against all of this, I am trying to live to please only Christ just as I see Apostle Paul doing. It’s certainly a battle to keep blocking out the temptations to please these various people in my life. But as Paul says, what allows me to seek the approval of Christ is for me to remember that Jesus is the One “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.”  It’s when I remember this same basic reality, that I too feel that sense of gratitude and personal obligation towards Jesus. And I no longer want to please the many audiences in my life but just the One who loved me and paid for the penalty of my sins.

  • How can I seek more the approval of God, and not be mindful of the approval of man?

When I think about what has helped me the most to seek more the approval of God, I realize it’s mainly the time honored, cherished spiritual disciplines that has helped Christians throughout the generations.

Through daily DT, God’s Word reminds me again and again of the basic gospel. The gospel reminds me that my fundamental identity is that of a rebellious sinner, saved and called by grace. And this is exactly what I to be reminded of over and over again. Being reminded of this important truth frequently through DT passages, helps me keep proper focus.

Second way is through times of prayer. Through prayer, I have a chance to honestly examine my heart and actions before God. And it gives me a time to confess and repent of ways in which I sought the approval of man instead of God.

Third is through singing hymns. Recently some of us were singing “More love to Thee O Christ” and the words really ministered to me and also addressed this same topic. In particular I was impacted by the words of the second stanza:

Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best;

This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

I was reminded how my life before I met Christ, was one of aimlessly craving after earthly joy, peace and rest. And lot of that came in the form of seeking after the approval of people. Seeking after earthly joy only led to increasing enslavement to sin and deepening enslavement to the approval of people which was absolutely miserable. And God rescued me from the misery of that kind of life. And slowly over time God is replacing that endless craving for human approval, with greater longing for more love for Christ.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank You for calling me and giving me Your underserved gift of salvation. Lord, I pray that I can hold onto that basic identity and strive to only live to please You. Lord, please forgive for the times that I have allowed my heart to stray and I sought again to win the approval of mankind. Lord, like Apostle Paul, please help me to always be motivated by a personal and deep sense of gratitude for what You have done for me.  Lord, You know how strong this tendency is within me to please people is. O Lord, please help me to turn a deaf hear to those other competing voices and only hear Your voice calling me to steadfast and faithful obedience.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 1:1-12

  • Reflect on Apostle Paul’s sense of identity and calling.  What is the relationship between wanting the approval of men and being a “servant of Christ”?

Apostle Paul’s sense of identity and calling centered on the truth of who God is and not on who he is.  Apostle Paul clearly states that he is an apostle not because of men who appointed him which would most likely be based on his resume and his credentials— his talents, abilities, social status, and experience; but he is an apostle because of who God is and precisely what God did, it was not by his own merit.  Paul understood clearly that Jesus’ death on the cross delivered him from his sins and the present evil age and that this was the will of God—to call him out of his death into the grace of Christ. It is this grace from God that called Paul to be an apostle, to be a servant of Christ.

If Apostle Paul lived a life basing his identity and calling on the approval of men, we would see a very different Apostle Paul.  He would be living a self-centered life doing things merely out of the desire to build his resume as an apostle.  He would probably take advantage of the churches, use people to build up his resume to earn respect, power, and prestige among the “super apostles.”  Instead, we see a life that is entirely others-centered, willing to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of others and for the sake of the gospel.  It stems from the life of someone who sees that it is by the grace of God that he lives and is given a new identity and purpose in life, so different from the dead life he once lived before.

It would be hard and impossible to live a life wanting the approval of men and also being a servant of Christ.  They are in conflict with each other.  To live for the approval of men signifies a life lived in “works” that is centered on selfishness, social status, academic degrees, financial power, respect, career advancements.  These things are in stark contrast to what it means to be a servant of Christ.  To live for being a servant of Christ means living in the grace of God that is centered on others, in loving people through sacrificial love in giving money, time, energy, and resources to build others up and to draw people closer to Christ.

  • Whose approval am I seeking?

The first 20 years of my life, before I became Christian, I lived solely for the approval of men.  What I wore, how I talked, who I talked to—essentially how I presented myself, and the things I invested my time, money, and energy into (clothing, social status, membership in a dozen student clubs, academics) were all for the sake of getting people’s approval.  As a child it was to get the approval of my parents, teachers, and that other child who I wanted to be my “best friend,” as a teenager it was to get the approval of the social elites in high school and prospective colleges, in college it was to get the approval of professors and recruiters.  It was a tiring cycle that never ended and never satisfied; there was always the next group of people to try and please, to try and gain a sense of significance and worth from.   It was a very small and sad life as it revolved around little me and my “big” disappointments or my little “accomplishments” for the day.

Through the years of being a Christian, God has been working to undo my natural inclination and desire to live for the approval of men.  I admit that even now it’s hard not to live for approval of people. This kind of thinking comes from someone who is not living in the grace of God.  I am sharply reminded through the life of Paul that my identity and calling was not because of anything I did (or could ever do), that it was not because I was worthier than another sinner, that it was not because God knew I would make fewer mistakes.  Actually, I mess up a lot, I make the wrong decisions because of my selfishness, I hurt people because of my sins, yet the amazing thing is that in light of this God considers me worthy to be his servant.  As I experience God’s grace through stopping to trying so hard to keep an image, as I humble myself to accept my sins, as I admit my own weaknesses and limitations, then it becomes ever clearer that my identity and calling was not given by man (works) but simply through the grace of God.

  • How can I seek more the approval of God, and not be mindful of the approval of man?

I can seek more the approval of God and not be mindful of the approval of man through admitting and confessing my sins daily.  It is my pride that fights against humbling myself and acknowledging my sins and limitations.  It is this that fuels my desire to want to keep an image and to cling on to whatever little compliment or little “achievement” I can hold on to for that day so that I can say that I am worthy of this calling God has given me.  It’s my pride that barricades my way to God’s grace.  I know from my past experiences that when I do come before God, confessing and owning up to my sins, He readily forgives me and I experience being loved by Him still—not being zapped out of this world.  It is through experiencing God’s forgiveness that I am reminded again of my identity and calling as a forgiven sinner, separated and called out to be an apostle through the grace of God.  And when I live in God’s grace, I experience room in my heart to love others as it is not crowded with thoughts about me and what I can do to gain approval and recognition from others, but I am free to love people, to be interested in people, to see the needs of others, and to be sacrificial with my time, money, and energy.

Personal Prayer

Father God, I confess that there are times and moments when I am tempted to seek the approval of men and want to prove my worth before others.  When I used to live this kind of life, it was a tiring and vicious cycle and it was a very unfulfilling, small, and sad life.  I thank you that this is not the life that you call me to live; but I have been called to live a life in your grace made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It never ceases to amaze me that it is this grace that gives me life where I am no longer enslaved to seeking the approval of others and aimlessly trying to find my own significance and worth but I am set free from this vicious cycle.  I thank you that my identity and calling is not dependent on what I can offer you and what I can do, because I know that I am a pretty messed up and limited person as I see my sins daily hurt others.  I thank you that in spite of my sins, because of who you are and your grace, I am still considered worthy.  I pray that in light of the truth of who you are, that I will learn to daily humble myself before you, be quick to confess my sins and own up to them so that I may live in your grace and in this way grow to have room in my heart and life for others instead of being so caught up by what others think of me, so that I may truly live the life that you’ve called me to live.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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